I’m just back from a walk in the almost dark in the almost snow; the kind of snow that gets you wet rather quickly since it comes down in great sloppy pancakes that stick to all your clothing…and it was really rather magical.
It was a reluctant walk to start with; one of those that every dog-owner has on days when they are so preoccupied with doing other things that they think they resent the interruption of wrapping up to go out in the cold. At least I pushed through it and was quickly prepared to own that I had been mistaken in my grumble of “I just don’t need this today”; this walk, in the premature darkness and the softening effect of the snow, was just the right thing. After all, how often does it snow here; I can’t remember the last time I got to walk in it. I had also forgotten its unfamiliar magic; how unfamiliarity (and the unplanned interruption to what we think we want to be doing) is, sometimes, just what we needed most.
Because this is such a familiar walk, a short distance from my house, across a common, through woods, up a hill with, normally, a view; yet I could do it in my sleep…sometimes feel as though I do sleepwalk it, at least when I’m distracted.
This time, due to the darkening effect of the weather, the big white house on the hill was all lit-up against the dusk and, skimmed by a field that was already turned into a blanket of white, for all the snow was so wet, seemed quite transformed by the timeless quality this turn in the weather had given to it. Although, close-up, I knew its glowing yellow interiors are really a collection of office spaces with flickering strip-lights and metal filing cabinets, from this distance, behind the snow-flurry, I conjured up a world of swinging lanterns and carriages at midnight, as it once might have been after some evening gathering or other.
This brought to mind the reminiscences of a friend I once had, who said she had gone there for tea with her mother, oh, forty or more years ago and been taken up to an old-fashioned nursery in the attic, with the children of the family, presided over by a uniformed nanny; imagine! When the last time was that I had recalled that particular nugget, I really don’t know but the way I was now seeing the old house, built to feminine specifications as a dowager house, offered new depth to the sterile modern reality of a building whose innate beauty is seldom seen or appreciated any more, I strongly suspect. It was like opening a box of perception to “see” all of this as though transported, from just a few moments stood softening my gaze on a snowy hill; and I was only just warming up…
The pathway through the woods was eerie, its landmarks all but vanished, its length seeming longer with my sensory cues all-but scrambled away by weather and dark. I became aware (more than seeing them) of birds flitting into foliage, hunkering down for the night ahead; and I knew, from experience, that deer would be very close since this is where I go to meet them. Yet, beyond such associations, the new timeless quality persisted as though these conditions took away all linearity from these familiar places. I could have been here at literally any time, without all my familiar prompts, and all such times seemed to converge in a way that, actually, spoke such simplicity, like these woods had been stripped back to their very essence.
I became so aware that I was feeling the energy of the place so much more than using my five other senses; yes, this was certainly true. Then, what I felt came up at me in layers which synchronised in ways that weren’t reliant on chronology or intellect, as though things in common across vast eons, such as the feeling of snowfall on trees in this or a similar place, were speaking much louder to me than what happened just a moment ago; like portals in the multidimensional fabric. Perhaps, to have been such a trigger, snow in a dark woodland setting is much more familiar to me than I know…
I struggle to write more at this point because what I convey here in words is just the tiniest fraction of what I felt tuned-into as I walked that path into the steady white curtain of snowflakes against the barest outline of trees. Really, there is no conveying the richness of such unconstrained sensory experiences though there is very little to “see” with the eyes; they are like a synesthesia explosion that is quite particular to the needlepoint, across multi-timelines, that our unique consciousness is.
As I made my way back to the road and the crash-back into twenty-first century cues, all the horses in the last field were gathered together for shelter, like the spokes of a wheel, beneath a giant redwood; their snow-skittish silhouettes against the navy-blue sky the very last thing I saw before climbing the stile. I felt myself breathe in the sight for the faction of an extra moment before bracing myself to confront the onslaught of “reality” once I reached the roadside; a pinprick to my bubble.
A walk like this, gilded by the brushstrokes of relative unfamiliarity, can take you out of yourself and remind you of currents outside of the sequential. Snow happens so infrequently here…as I said; so, perhaps, there is an especial magic that occurs when it suddenly does, like a blanket thrown over the too-familiar, or, at least, a prompt to experience outside the box. Though it had been less than an hour, the experience felt (longer isn’t the right word…) much deeper than that and I now return to my work refreshed and yet subtly altered, as though I have been on an adventure outside of the supposed sequence of my day, which has grown my awareness in immeasurable ways.
Perhaps the softness of the unexpected snowfall was a cue to soften my own benchmarks; to allow other experiences in to those that are expected and which, therefore, tend to filter out most of what we could potentially “see” in any given circumstance. It’s a sensory muscle worth exercising; one that gains tone the more we stop expecting anything at all…a reminder to myself.