going off piste

families sledging in snowy park

The temperature has risen, rain has come and most of the snow has now gone. Even so, I am still thinking about snow.

Near to where I live we have a small wild park, which I like far more than the manicured lawns and formal gardens of the larger park just down the road; so it was to the wild park that I went yesterday to take photos while there was still a lot of snow around, and still the chance of more to come.

snowy path with railings

As I wandered fairly randomly, camera in hand, I was trying to work out why I like the snow so much. After all, I do realise that it is a major inconvenience for many people, and potentially for worse than an inconvenience when food deliveries can’t be made and transport and health services are interrupted.

snowy park

Of course there is a strong influence from children’s literature that makes a snow-bound world a thing of magic: from Lucy Pevensie’s first visit to Narnia, to the story of the Snow Queen, to Tom and Hatty skating along the frozen river in Tom’s Midnight Garden, to the endless winter of the Selfish Giant’s garden, stories teach us that snow and ice belong to liminal worlds, to the borderlands between the here-and-now and the lands of possibility that we may not actually see but that we sense are just beyond our reach.

snow, trees, fence

I’m really very fond of these “lands between”, so much so that for a while, any time I was asked for a brief writer’s biography it would include the phrase, “her writing explores the literary borderlands between writer and narrator, translation and creation, memoir and invention.”

I have poems, too, that refer, more or less explicitly, to these “blurred borders”:

I want**

the small things: I want to wake up tucked
against your shoulder, feel muscles, sinews
tense against my skin while lips mumble
the blurred borders of night and day,
of you and me.


On the station concourse, deadweight
luggage cannot anchor me. The second hand
ticks petals from a clock that thinks
in black and white of missed and caught,
of then and now.

There are raindrops on my face and I want
the small things.

But I think when it comes to snow, there’s more to it than that. I think it has to do with the world made new, with the idea of a clean slate, of walking along untrodden paths and of becoming explorers and discoverers.

snow settled on outdoor steps
The wild park isn’t very large and it only has a couple of formal – tarmacked – paths across it; in the snow, even these are hidden and it becomes a virgin landscape.

Normally, dog walkers follow fairly consistent tracks, while their pets dance off along random routes among the trees; but the snow reveals these unmapped trails and shows the desire paths.

Yesterday, as I watched a dog plunge into the undergrowth, while I followed his master on a less steep and less overgrown path, I wondered how many other creatures had followed those different routes over the years.

It seemed as if the snow had somehow connected us to an older, simpler world, as if we might be stepping away from the socially-imposed design of the modern world for once and following primitive instincts to tread in the footsteps of the past.

snow, trees

**The full poem can be read in the post Love stories and I talk more about borderlands in the post Blurred borders.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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