The snow falls, and what doesn’t move soon disappears. Bushes disappear. The division between grass and driveway no longer visible. Unused tools, garden waste bins, old vehicles – you’re no longer sure quite where they are. The winter makes a still life of anything not in use, and after a while it’s hard to work out what’s beneath the snow hills. Like ancient burial mounds, all you see is a shape, and then it’s down to imagination.
A new neighbour has moved vehicles and trailers into a nearby garden. Oh, and a TV. They seem willing victims, waiting patiently to disappear into the snow. It’s a calm feeling. All the things around us that usually feel as if they’re making demands – the spade that reminds you of the ground that needs digging, the bin that reminds you of the old grass that needs dumping, the old car that reminds you of an engine that needs fixing. Now they’re all calm, just giving themselves up to the snow. We breathe a sigh of relief.
When things are still, they seem to have a different meaning. I’m not keen on old cars, but an old car covered in snow looks like an ghost, with a very different kind of spirit, one that has abandoned all hope of being impressive – in fact a much more friendly sort of car, the sort of car I could love. Not a very useful one, though, admittedly.
The snow also covers all sorts of activities we may not be so proud of – broken branches, paper packaging, plastic bags, old cans, dog poo (yes, we get it here too). It’s a magic white marker pen, sweeping over the ugly and dirty world with a cleansing sweep of sparkle. It feels like a friend.
Last year I lost a shopping list in the snow. At the time it was annoying, since I ‘d forgotten what was on it and came home without the all important bread. But a couple of days later I found a shopping list. Not mine, but someone else’s. That person wanted cleaning liquid, and biscuits, and, for a magical moment, so did I.
A few days ago we were wandering outside the skeleton of this year’s Ice Hotel. It opens in a couple of weeks, and outside they’re still blowing wet snow onto metal frames. Inside there will be lots of elves carving ice blocks into reindeer and tube trains.
But at the moment there are no guests. The Torne river is a quiet expanse of white, as yet not filled with the excited whoops of people on sled dog tours, or roaring past on snow scooters in a wave of petrol fumes. It’s the time before the curtain opens on the stage of the magical winter wonderland on ice.
Round the corner, lined up like an army of terracotta warriors, we found a store of currently unused snow scooters. They looked strangely out of place. Whatever were they for? In ten thousand years archaeologists might dig them up. They might wonder if they were objects buried to honour the Ice King who lived in an ice palace here on the river.
Placed like this they don’t really look like snow scooters. They look like an art installation.
This work of art might carry the title, ‘The pointlessness of travel’. ‘Toys in a winter landscape.’ ‘How we destroyed the planet with carbon monoxide and methanol.’ Or, ‘How could we ever have thought this was fun?’
It makes you think.