Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Winter flaneur

The reasons why I love winter are many.  But all reasons are based on that simple exercise, that simple practice: walking.  And since I came to live in the northern portion of central Canada, my appreciation for winter has only grown deeper.  

What is the experience of that appreciation? Head into your nearest snow-covered boreal forest.  Let's go for a walk there, as snow-shoed flaneurs for a little while.  

The first thing you'll notice is the cold, of course.  This is when the air comes alive.  Breathing becomes something more than an automatic process. Instead, you inhale and the air freezes your nostrils as it makes its way down into your lungs.  You become physically aware of that most basic of processes.  

Then there's the stillness. I'm hesitant to describe it as silence, because it's not silence--just very, very still.  And as you take in the stillness, the smallest of sounds begin to approach.  You might hear, for example, the slight sound of a black-backed woodpecker tapping away at a tree.  

As you look around, trudging through the snow as you go, you begin to notice how even this stillness is illusory.  There are, all around you, tracks and other signs that animals have been passing through, using these woods, using these paths.  The winding track of the fox, for example. It might appear still now, but at other times this patch of forest is a hub of activity 

Looking around, you see something worth contemplating, something that painters like Tom Thomson saw so clearly in their own wintry travels: that snow is only very rarely white.  As the sunlight increases, shifts and fades throughout the day, the snow takes on a surprising array of colours--gold, pink, blue in varying shades.

This can only be had be walking through the winter, by walking through the woods.  You can't get this on a ski-hill, from a parking lot, or from looking out the living room window.  You need to be out there, flaneur-ing among the evergreens.  

Just be sure to bring a good thermos of something hot. 

No comments:

Post a Comment