days without skis
Snow is a 3D experience. Even on days without skis. You can look at beautiful pictures, but they only tell you that snow has arrived somewhere, and in some quantity. The silence that brings to the world, absorbing all sound like a towel in a drum, the crunch of it underfoot, the removal of the scent of all plants and the sight of glitter across rolling white cornices in the morning sun are the complete experience of snow.
Snow numbs the world. Calls a stop on all activities with its silent footfalls and closed mouth. Takes the edge off not only rocks and mountains but all your human efforts, it smothers the arc of possible activity, pulls the reach of song up short. Reminds that the quietest voice sometimes draws more attention.
Snow blunts your agency. Just as by putting pen to paper, one can assert existence, so the dark marks left by feet in snow give a feeling of being the First, the Only. I get distracted on my walk to the convenience store, by a rolling slope of night’s fresh fall opening up to the right of the road. I run over and up to the crest, and, not long after I’ve reached the top, flakes silently fill the sunken hollows that my passing weight has left. Filled with a pattern of crystals too small to see, but never to be repeated in the exact same formation again.
Snow will disappear from the unreachable horizon in the spring. Water’s softest form will reveals rock’s most striking, let black shine from dampness, and the solid forms of mountains will stand, simple and strong, on many invisible, rooted, powerful feet, against a blue sky. There they have stood, solid, occupying the same dark patch of earth, for more years than we will ever comprehend, in spite of the dates written in information leaflets and geography books. Figures calculated to fathom the unfathomable, fathoms high and deep made relative to other things by the infinite arcing beauty of numbers. Nevertheless, the mountains are lines before a sky clear as winter, but warmer seeming, if only because of an understanding of what meltwater means. Dripping, a rushing of clicking and smattering, a rush of ice crystals which could have clattered and tinkled before the water formed now roll and slip into a river of ripples and supple rivulets. Wash with gasps the moss so smooth, the pebbles and other petrifications pure.
Today there is still snow, however, so many crystals, and spring is a thought for the future. In the village of Iwatake there is a small festival, and homestays open their doors in the evening to offer visitors warm sake and colourful, crisp-edged vegetable pickles. The stream running beside the houses is in motion, under candles burning in hollowed-out snow alcoves. The heat from pork soup mingles with laughing breath, catches light from street braziers and lights. Winter passes on quiet cat feet.