Friday, 3 December 2010
The sound of the snow
The thing with a thick blanket of snow is how quiet everything is. No passing cars, no singing birds, no echoes, and distant noise absorbed rather than travelling onwards to our ears.
Sleeping in Chertsey's cabin last Friday night, I could occasionally hear the fire settling in the stove, the kettle gently singing sotto voce. At midnight I stoked the fire, and moved the kettle, not wanting the place to be full of steam, and all was quiet. Until at four I again awoke to a gentle rustling hissing sound, like but not like that of light rain on the cabin top above me. I checked and it wasn't the kettle; it wasn't the fire. I opened the hatches and saw that it had just begun to snow, lightly, onto the frozen canal. Could I really have heard it, I ask myself now, whispering on the steel above my head? It seems incredible. Yet at the time - and what could be more reliable - it was certain that there was nothing else it could have been. And by the time the grey dawn broke, there was a light dusting of white over everything, as light and dry as icing sugar dusted from a sieve (not the wet claggy stuff we get down here that turns into treacherous ice as soon as you touch it).