Coming down the stairs, with my eyes looking at my feet so as not to trip, I blended in with a myriad of other people beside me, in front of me, and behind me, all intent on leaving the underground station as quickly as possible. It was dark, it was damp, and dreadfully cold. It was Sunday evening, 10 December, and it was snowing in London – the first snowfall locally for the winter (apart from a five minute ‘snow storm’ last week). It had been rumoured that even the fountains at Trafalgar Square had frozen, so I heard.
Now at ground level, and at the exit barriers, for a moment, I was lined up with half a dozen other people who looked as though they were just about to run several furlongs in the 2.40 at Haydock Park. And then we were off. Through the barrier and homeward bound.
‘Snow provokes responses that reach right back to childhood.’ Andy Goldsworthy
The street was busy. So many people. Traffic noise blared. Traffic lights seemingly overly bright, glared; and the snow-laden wind howled and caught us all by surprise as we turned the corner. Gasps could be heard as a bitter and raw wind hit the face of an unsuspecting people. In the distance the Salvation Army, in their favourite annual spot, just outside the pub, could be heard singing Carols to a moving sea of people who seemed not to notice them.
The snow underfoot had become ice and my pace slowed, not wishing to fall and crack a rib as I had done this time last year.
I know, for many, snow can be a nuisance, but for me, right here, right now, it was amazing. I love it, and admit to having let my inner-child run loose. But, please: don’t stop me know. Nature in all it’s glory had bathed the city in a white dress as only nature knows, and it was pretty, it was awesome, and inviting. But, an invitation to what?
In the middle of the park, I stopped. And yet, as I remained motionless, I had the perception of moving.
The falling snow, caught in the yellow street lamps that were in a line at the path’s edge, looked like twinkling, falling stars. And, in a horizontal wind, the snow passed my face to the left and to the right, and it felt as though I was moving and tit was stationary.
Without moving it seemed as though I had stumbled into unfamiliar and alien territory. I felt like a stranger, lost, and unable to recognise any familiar landmarks around me.
Silence descended. The traffic noise seemed a million miles away, and the neon traffic lights’ glare seemed like lights shining below the horizon, and the hustle and bustle of people rushing to get home was now a distant memory. All was still.
‘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 Priestley
Mechanical time had given way to another perception of time that seemed to flow and yet not flow. A still point. It was nature’s dance and I was included. ‘Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and (yet) there is only the dance’.
Could I, indeed, be moving through an unchartered part of space, a field of stars? Should my intention be to ‘bodily go’, or was that happening anyway?
Had I entered some kind of liminal access point, a ‘thin place’, a portal to another realm, unknowingly?
Had I stepped back in time? Certainly childhood memories of playing in the snow flooded my thoughts. Wonderful memories!
Had I stepped out of our world, into some altogether much more expansive , connected and mysterious?
‘A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky -unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.’ Susan Orlean
Was my imagination running riot – that faculty that children wonderfully indwell and many adults rarely visit. Was this the key to this odd out-of-time event?
I wanted to analyse, research, detail what was happening, but knew that had I done so I would have been catapulted back into mechanical time, and so I just revelled in this fleeting experience and enjoyed it. Have you encountered this? Have you encountered?
‘Snowflakes are kisses from heaven.’ Anonymous
And then, without any apparent reason, I was back. Back from where?
People seemed to appear as if from nowhere, traffic noise seemed louder now, lights brighter, and I saw where I was: in the middle of snow-laden Parson’s Green on a cold, dark, dismal, snowy December evening.
I started to walk, albeit slowly, but roughly keeping apace with other people around me, thinking of what I would cook for dinner that evening, what presents I would buy, and who I had to telephone. Yes, I was back in the realm of mechanical time. And yet, in the back of my mind was the memory of that encounter, that place, that still point ‘of the turning of the world’.
We are all ‘edge-walkers’, straddling two realms (and possibly more). Someone once said, ‘Seek and you will find’, and that is so. Don’t look at the world except with physical eyes and ‘physicality’ is all you will see. Seek and delve a bit deeper, and the world opens up to us all, into an altogether mysterious and more wonderful place, and at this time of the year, ‘thin places’ and ‘magic’ abounds…if we seek them.