Sunday, 19 December 2010

The north wind shall blow and we shall have snow - again?

Sue Purkiss, in her excellent blog about snow Dark Lords,Witch Queens, and Snow on ABBA yesterday, said -
'Snow changes what happens, we all know that: ordinary life holds its breath. You can't work any more, so you might as well play. 

But there's something else, something much deeper than that. We are taken back to an older time, when we were bound more closely to nature; to a time when people must have wondered if winter would ever end, and if they could possibly survive it even if it did.' 

We have just had almost two weeks of incredibly deep snow.  When it arrived so early it seemed quite beautiful and a lot of fun, but soon almost all travel was impossible, except on foot through snow that lay a foot deep.

That was when, as Sue says, ordinary life held its breath.  But it felt much more than that.

When day after day we looked out on this altered landscape through snow-crusted windows it should have been an opportunity to get lots done at home, but perhaps we are more instinctive beings than our modern lives would suggest?

Are we more tied to nature, making this deep wintry weather trigger some kind of survival instinct or dread that it would never end?  Is that why some people seem to have reacted strangely to the enforced holiday.

After the first day or so when we cleared paths only to have them as deep in snow by the following morning, it should have been easy to settle down to working at home or doing all those things that there never seems time for.

But instead I was unable to concentrate on anything for very long, as if life was on hold, breathlessly waiting to see when this force of nature would melt away and everything would return to normal.  My friends and neighbours reported the same sense of  waiting, of not-quite-holiday, when day after day we woke to more and more snow, just when we thought it was beginning to disappear, it all came back again, worse than ever.

Most of it finally melted away leaving behind small mountains of hard-packed ice and snow where it had been cleared from the roads.  Most of the deep snow may have gone but many icy paths and pavements are still covered by snow, hardened to solid ice by sub zero temperatures.  It is currently -7 outside  but the latest fall of snow seems to have avoided our little corner of the land and is currently immobilising the north and south.

The forecast threatens - as the nursery rhyme goes -    ' The north wind shall blow and we shall have (more) snow...'   Will we still hold our breath until it all goes away again? Will our instinct for survival make us fight the lethargy or make us want to hibernate until the spring?


  1. When we have day after day of very high temperatures (above 40'C) we lurk inside rather than out. We creep out first thing in the morning to give what plants we can save a drink. We say we will do all sorts of things inside. The reality is that we do not do what we should do or could do. We hold our breath just the way you do in the cold.
    I am not sure that humans cope well with the extremes - unless they are born into them perhaps, in which case they have adapted their communication patterns to adapt to these extremes.

  2. I suppose I hadn't thought about it being the other way around, too, Cat. I think you are right, it is the extremes that cause us problems. If it lasted for a longer time we would no doubt adapt our lifestyles to suit.

  3. I felt exactly the same way a few weeks ago. When I ventured out on foot the village was silent. There were no vehicles moving at all, and I realised that is where most of the village life noise comes from, the traffic, people moving about. As well as the silence, there was little movement. The occasional person also venturing out with carrier bag in hand after going out for provisions.
    For me, it actually felt like a world ending kind of feeling. It's amazing how much we rely on our cars and how they are now just a part of the scenery.
    At the minute, we are sat in the middle ground, hoping the snow doesn't hit us again.

  4. We got a fall of snow again this morning and forecast to get worse!
    Yes, Rebecca, it is the silence that makes it all seem a bit surreal.

  5. Your pictures are beautiful Linda. I think snow is different in a way that extreme heat isn't. In the summer, we can change when we go out and go out prepared, but the snow cuts us off from one another and limits where we can move to, to a much smaller radius than normal. I guess it's that paradox of beauty being so treacherous.

  6. Thank you Michele. Yes snow does limit us in that way. But I recall when we were in Melbourne a couple of years ago and the temp was 46 degrees it was so uncomfortable and even the trams stopped, having broken down due to the extreme heat - so we had to get out and walk - and walking any distance was very uncomfortable.
    It was exhausting to fight the heat, in a similar way to fighting through the snow, so there are some comparisons.