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RAB MCNEIL: I love the quiet of snow

The view from Rab's garden a couple of days ago.
The view from Rab's garden a couple of days ago.

I love this verse by the Danish poet Helge Rode (1870-1937): There’s nothing in this world as quiet as snow/when it falls through the air calmly/lowering the sound of your steps/gently hushing, hushing/the voices speaking too loudly.

The silence that snow brings provides a break from the usual hullaballoo, at least in the country.

In the towns and cities, I guess the sound of traffic in the slush continues, but even that will have a relatively shushed quality.

Unless you live on your very own island, you can’t get away from the sound of machines in the country, at least in villages.

But the snow soon silences it, blanketing the garden and wider landscape in comforting quietude.

The excitement of first snow

In northern Sweden, which I take an interest in through blogs and vlogs, I’ve noticed over the years that folk get childishly excited by the first snowflakes and that, by March, they’re heartily sick of the sight of the stuff.

In the intervening period, somehow they seem to cope with it better.

But I don’t think there’s any secret to it, or that we are somehow genetically hopeless at dealing with it.

For, in places like that, snow is more permanent, so the gritters are out several times daily. They’re not having to react suddenly to something relatively abnormal.

Across the way from Rab’s house, a while ago.

Countries in mainland northern Europe, and even in southern Sweden, that get less snow are just as bad as us and make the same “never ready” complaint about themselves.

In Scotland, we don’t get snow all winter, particularly not in the sea-girt islands, and not even for extended periods usually.

But if it goes on for more than a week, we soon get irritated by it, particularly if it has gone icy or slushy under foot or on the roads.

As I write, snow has just melted away where I live.

White mountain peaks

On very cold days, where it hasn’t actually snowed at ground level, the mountain peaks in the distance, over the sea, turn white. They’re nearer the source of it all, I suppose.

But here it was, at the tail-end of November, covering the grass, and piled up on the inside of my hammock.

The garden birds were extra-hungry, and I like to think at least they had full bellies as they cooried doon on these terribly cold nights.

I hope they cuddle in together. No point sitting on a branch shivering on your tod.

As I generally write these sermons some time ahead, I’ve no idea what the weather is like as your butler reads these perspicacious warblings to you.

A fluff-headed romantic

If, by some chance, there it is snow and it has caused you inconvenience or worse, my sincere apologies. Last thing you want to see is some fluff-headed romantic lauding the phenomenon.

All the same, of snow in general, let us at least agree that children love it.

Videos on yon YouTube show puppies and kittens having a high old time too.

Here’s another verse from the Helge Rode poem (different translation):

There is nothing in the world that can soften like snow/
Hush, you’re listening to what’s silent singing/Oh, a sound so fine/
silver bells sublime/in the inmost reaches of your heart are ringing.

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