Saturday, 20 January 2007

The Light on the Loch

What a view we were treated to this last week; for a little while everything was white and bright. The snow that fell all around us melted quickly here near the water but on the hills at the top of the loch, it stayed overnight. Rough swells and high tides had deposited bits of driftwood around the beach and when the sleety, snowy rain stopped, we went “treasure” hunting, wrapped up warmly against the chill wind. The air was so clean it practically sparkled and we spent over half an hour (so brave) scurrying around carrying wood from the beach to the yard. No sooner had we come inside and made a lovely pot of hot coffee, the sun came out to play and stayed a while to dazzle us.


I have always wondered why I find snow so seductive? When I lived in Los Angeles, as a student, a group of us would spend a half a morning driving to the mountains to ski on fresh powder and I used to think that it was the sport that held the appeal. I had very little contact with snow after returning to South Africa although it does occasionally occur there, especially at the higher altitudes. My next real experience of snow was in the USA when M and I (and two of the boys) lived in Missouri for a year.

Our induction started about two hours out of New York heading for Pennsylvania, driving our newly acquired VW bus (affectionately known as a Kombi in SA), when wind and light rain began to build and within a few minutes we were in the beginnings of our first snowstorm. Driving was a nightmare; M had experienced extreme conditions driving in Europe and managed to keep us moving forward as we were on a tight schedule and couldn’t stop to wait the storm out. We drove on and on…with our two eldest sons with us (3 years and 6 months respectively) we had to keep moving to keep the interior warm. That Kombi, bought at a second-hand car dealership in New York the day before, just kept going and going and never missed a beat. We made it to our hosts near Eldon, Missouri, albeit about eleven hours late and M slept for a day and a half; he had driven the entire distance; his only breaks were for meals and coffee stops!

That whole winter there, was just snowstorm after snowstorm and some were blizzards. According to the radio and TV, it was the worst winter in fifty years. We were living in a trailer (mobile home) on the farm where M was working; it was very cosy (and a bit stuffy) inside and nothing prepared you for the icy blast when the door was opened. We had a washing machine but no dryer and I have vivid memories of hanging up steaming washing that would freeze stiff from basket to line, no pegs needed. Snow was what we lived with, it made life a bit inconvenient and it wasn’t very pretty when salt had turned it to grey slush on the verges and roads. Snow brought ice and mud where it melted and slippery walkways where it didn’t and I developed a healthy respect for the American moms who managed young children and all the extra paraphernalia they needed in these extreme conditions.

Often I would sit, looking out of the window over the fields behind the mobile home covered by this pristine cloak; when the sun shone, it would glitter and gleam and the reflection would light up the whole inside of the trailer. That same spectacular sight happened when the sunlight broke through the clouds and danced along these mountains; the whole room was illuminated by the reflected light and I suddenly remembered twenty-seven years ago in Missouri and the magic of snow.


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