p1179056snow1.jpgYesterday afternoon, shortly after Sylvia went upstairs for her nap, it started to snow here. At first the snow accumulated only on the grass and bushes, but after half an hour it started to stick to the roads and driveways, too. I stepped outside to take a few photos and breathed in the silence.

The snowfall reminded me of the winter I spent in a small town in Switzerland. I rode the bus to the university in the nearby city 12km away, and my local bus stop was in the center of the town where I lived. Actually, it was the only bus stop in the town. (Yes, it was a pretty small town.) The center of town was about a fifteen-minute walk to the farm where I lived—well, fifteen minutes in the morning (when I had to contend with a 16% grade hill) and half that time in the evening.

On Wednesdays I had an evening class, which meant I didn’t get home until well after dark. One winter Wednesday evening, another snowfall started to cover the white blanket that already lay on the ground. As I walked alone down the road toward my farm, I became acutely aware of the silence. All of the animals in the fields around me were silent, and there was this peaceful heaviness in the air. It was as if the cows knew that the snow and the dark and the cold made for a magical moment.

p1179057snow2.jpgI live in a far more (sub)urban environment these days, but yesterday’s late-afternoon snowfall—cold and quiet—was like a Proustian madeleine taking me back to that winter in Switzerland. When Sylvia woke up and Jan came home, the three of us went into the front yard to create “a girl snowman” (at Sylvia’s insistence), snow angels, a castle, and footprints. The snow didn’t last long, though: by midday today, nearly all of it had already melted away.

5 Responses to “Madeleines”

  1. Chrison 19 Jan 2008 at 12:28 am

    You describe that magical snow space really well! The sense that the world has stopped for a little while. Ah.

    How anatomically correct was your girl snowman?!

  2. Katie Jon 19 Jan 2008 at 10:15 am

    What great pictures. I was thinking you had baked madeleines. I’m kind of hoping for more snow.

  3. Frankon 21 Jan 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I’m rather embarrassed to admit that I knew about the Mork and Fonz connection, but not Proust’s Madeleines. I am planning on reading Swann’s Way this Spring – picked it up in a bargain book bin last year.

  4. Frankon 21 Jan 2008 at 10:13 pm

    Sorry to comment again, but I really feel the need to complement you on the photos. They are very nice. Here I rarely see snow as undisturbed fluff on branches or flowers. Actually, snow seems to be fairly infrequent the past few years, replaced by freezing rain.

  5. Marshaon 22 Jan 2008 at 10:09 am

    Chris: The girl snowman was built a bit like the title character of James Briggs’ The Snowman, which arms made out of snow that sloped down along the sides. The bottom level was widened a bit t resemble a skirt (rather than two legs next to each other).

    Katie J: Now I’m in the mood to bake some madeleines. We do have a special pan for it…

    Frank: Thanks! I know what you mean about undisturbed snow—it’s a rarity here, too (and anywhere you find cars, actually). Didn’t we read some of Swann’s Way in Kernen’s class? Or was it in Fullerton’s?