The idea for this post has been screaming around my head for a while. Ever since the end of February when, yet again, we found ourselves amid another snowstorm. Not that I minded about the actual snow. For one thing, I don’t drive so my commute is only affected when the trains go mental. For another, I’ve always loved the snow. I’ve never understood why people hate it so much. I’ve always been annoyingly pale so the sun always makes me feel uncomfortable. Every year I see people rejoice when the sun comes out whilst I only wish for winter to return. Yet, whenever we are lucky enough for snow to fall I am expected to react as though it’s a massive inconvenience. It felt as is every day last month I was faced with someone panicking about potential snow. Getting updates every minute about tiny changes in the weather. I’m sick of it. Winter isn’t the bad guy here. It’s magical. You just need to look at the world of literature to see that.
I remember the first time I read Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater but not for the reasons I should. It was as part of a university course and I, honestly, couldn’t tell you why we were studying him. It could have been something to do with the representation of the self or something to do with opium. Whatever it was, I didn’t pay attention. Instead, I was captivated by a small section of the text that I focused on instead of following my objective. It occurs towards the end of the section entitled ‘Introduction to the Pains of Opium’ where De Quincey lays down his vision of pure happiness. This just happens to be a 17×12 foot room full of books, an endless supply of tea, and a lovely young woman to pour for him. Sound like bliss right? Well, it just so happens that De Quincey is also a bit of a fan of winter.
Surely everybody is aware of the divine pleasures which attend a winter fire-side: candles at four o’clock, warm hearth-rugs, tea, a fair tea-maker, shutters closed, curtains flowing in ample draperies on the floor, whilst the wind and rain are raging audibly without.
I think this sentiment will resonate with a lot of bookish types because, deep down, we’re all just homebodies. I love going on adventures as much as the next person but, when it comes down to it, I could easily spend my days inside my house reading or watching films. I realise that it’s not “healthy” to spend all of your time indoors but that doesn’t mean a part of me doesn’t wish I was agoraphobic. Those guys get all the luck. But if I have to go outside then I don’t want to be uncomfortable and that’s what summer makes me feel. Every year I see my friends and family happily walk around in the blazing sun letting the rays assault them. Most of them don’t even worry about sun cream. Me? I’m probably hiding in the shade still covered in factor 1 million and trying not to itch.
But in winter? I’m in my element. De Quincey is right: unadulterated happiness can’t be found in spring, summer, or autumn. Happiness is walking around with snow crunching underfoot. Happiness is a warm jumper, scarf and gloves. Happiness is a freshly fallen quilt of snow that you step in for the first time. However, so many of the representations of snow are of something cold and annoying. Being adults we aren’t supposed to view snow as anything other than something dangerous and irritating. Something that prevents us from getting to where we need to be. Something that makes our lives difficult. But snow isn’t the problem. I laugh every time people freak out about snowfall in the UK. There are plenty of countries that manage to get by with constant snow yet the slightest hint of a snowflake and our entire transportation systems start shutting down.
That’s not what snow is about. Snow is magical and happy. Yes, it can cause damage and stuff. But what can’t? If you ask me, there is a certain naive charm in snow. It causes chaos with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Not like rain or wind. Those bastards don’t give a damn about who they hurt. Ice? It’s out for blood. Snow just wants things to be pretty. It’s the kind of thing that means well but is constantly missing a step. It’s always trying to please but manages to slightly ruin things at the same time. Like Samwell Tarly or something. Snow is such a childish thing that needs a sense of wonder and enjoyment. As with everyone, all of my childhood memories of snow are positive. Like the year my sisters and I were sledging down our drive and I managed to get stuck under the car. We all had a whale of a time. There’s something about snow that means you can forgive it so much. Like having to haul your sledge to the top of the hill over and over again. You don’t mind because you’re having too much fun.
Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten how great snow really is. We’re too self-obsessed and distracted by our daily lives that we can’t see how precious it is. How pretty. So I’ve trawled my personal library and the internet for some of the best quotes to help remind us all that this simple white powder isn’t our enemy.
- Let it, however, not be spring, nor summer, nor autumn – but winter, in his sternest shape. This is a most important point in the science of happiness.
– Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English-Opium Eater
2. No animal, according to the rules of animal-etiquette, is ever expected to do anything strenuous, or heroic, or even moderately active during the off-season of winter.
– Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
3. There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in. They keep out of the way all the year. And then when everything’s quiet and white and the nights are long and most people are asleep—then they appear.
– Tove Jansson, Moominland Midwinter
4. A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.
– Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
5. I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’ And when they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in green, and dance about – whenever the wind blows.
– Lewis Carroll, Alice Through the Looking Glass
6. Plus there’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on. It makes you believe you’re special, even though you know you’re not.
– Carol Rifka Brunt, Tell the Wolves I’m Home
7. They were playing old Bob Dylan, more than perfect for narrow Village streets close to Christmas and the snow whirling down in big feathery flakes, the kind of winter where you want to be walking down a city street with your arm around a girl like on the old record cover.
– Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch
8. Maybe it’s wrong when we remember breakthroughs to our own being as something that occurs in discrete, extraordinary moments. Maybe falling in love, the piercing knowledge that we ourselves will someday die, and the love of snow are in reality not some sudden events; maybe they were always present. Maybe they never completely vanish, either.
– Peter Høeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow
9. The very fact of snow is such an amazement
– Roger Ebert
10. The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
– J. B. Priestly
11. Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder–no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.
– Candace Bushnell, Lipstick Jungle
12. The snow itself is lonely or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and one thing only.
– Joseph Wood Krutch