I read the book “Snow” by Orhan Pamuk. There is much to say about the book, but I’ll say nothing, except that upon discussing the novel with Sarah Payok, who
recommended I read it, I recalled some memories of snow, which I have not written down before.
The sound of snow
I meditated often when I was young, but had trouble with mantras, having had no teacher to learn from. Adapting, I turned sounds and rhythms into mantras. We lived on high ground, and the wind often blew. Sitting in my bedroom at night, I returned my mind to the rhythm of the gusts and the soft moans of the wind.
One night the wind ceased its noise, and hard, dry snow flakes fell rapidly. In the quietness, the snow whispered silently on the roof and on the side of the tall, shingled house.
Later, I stood at the window with the musty screen and watched the pitch-blackness of night and snow.
Years ago, I was driving my grandmother and my wife in the Winter in the Keewenaw Peninsula, along the coast of Lake Superior. We rounded a slow corner out of Eagle River, and in a park by the road we suddenly saw a small herd of whitetail deer. They were standing under pine trees, eating bark, legs deep in snow. They appeared to have been standing there for a while, because their backs were frosted with fluffy mounds of snow. They looked like fat, stuffed dolls because their hair bristled out all along their bodies. They were the softest, prettiest deer I’ve ever seen.
A lamp in the snow
Earlier this Winter, I stood in the kitchen of my apartment at 3 AM and lifted the blinds on the window.
I was struck by beauty. Heavy, wet snowflakes were falling, sticking to tree branches and piling in 3-inch high ridges on limbs. The sidewalk had vanished. The landscaping timbers and the bushes were all simply mounds in the snow. The snow was falling at an angle from the North, its fall tilted by the branches. It eddied and spiraled down.
At the center of the scene was a black lamp post. Light beamed from underneath its snow cap and sparkled in the snow crystals. The snowflakes fell from shadows above and settled to rest in the circle of light.
Years ago, when I was a teenager, I was sitting at a small pier called Portage Entry on Lake Superior. Midnight was nearing; Christmas was weeks away. It was cold, and the water in the canal and lake was thick with ice and snow.
My ears stung a little from the cold. They ached when the hood of my coat brushed them.
A red light was blinking on a bouy. Its pulse reflected off the frozen water.
A fishing boat was moored just feet away from me. I could see where the ice had been broken around it, and where the new ice had locked it in.
There was nothing else around. It was quiet.
I was meditating on the rhythm of the wind and the feel of the world around me. My mind wandered and it returned. It too has a rhythm.
Then the lake spoke. Not to me; I was just there to hear it.
It was first a hiss that started far out in the lake, past the bouy. I heard a distant pop, and then the hiss raced from out in the darkness to my right, down into the canal and past me, off to my left. It was quiet, and as it neared me, louder. And softer as it slithered deeper into the canal.
I listened for more, my heart picked up a little. My eyes scanned the surface of the ice, but it was dark. I could make out few details.
Then a deeper sound followed the path of the hiss. It was a sound that I find hard to describe, because of its dynamic, bassy sound. It was a series of very low pops, some groans, and a deep rending sound. It traveled from my right to my left as well, a string of small explosions.
It passed and the lake became quiet again.
I was standing up now, closer to the edge of the pier, examing the ice. For what, I do not know, but I wanted to see something that would testify to me that I had, in fact, heard what I think I heard.
The ice was moving. I knew that from the sound, though I had never heard it before. I thought of plate tectonics, of huge pieces of the earth’s crust moving and colliding. This was ice.
In a moment, the fishing boat, moored so close, began to groan. It lurched and began to twist. The ropes pulled taut. I heard it grind against the cement of the pier.
I stood there in awe for a while, listening to the ice move more freely now. Everything seemed to move in slow motion. I soon remembered that I was freezing; the boat was still fighting for its position when I got in my car and drove away.