Another post in the seasonal department, I feel compelled to write about the beauty of snow.
There is a really good German film called Jenseits der Stille (English Beyond Silence). Now I love German film in general, but this one is especially great. It tells the story of a girl born to deaf parents who has regular hearing ability herself. She learns how to play the clarinette and her music threatens to alienate her from her family because they cannot understand it. At this point I’d just like to say: Watch it, it’s beautiful. Anyway, in one of the very intimate moments between her and her father, they stand and look at snow falling, and he asks her (signing of course): „What does snow sound like? What does it tell you?“ And she answers: „Honestly, snow doesn’t talk much. They even say snow drowns out all the noise. When snow is falling, everything is very quiet.“
Now, Berlin is never quiet. But it is quieter when it is as snowed in as it is now.
The cars go slower, their motor screams muffled in white thickness, and on the large streets they disperse the dirty greyish substance that’s left on the floor like dust. The tram tracks disappear underneath it too.
The way the snow mixes with granulate on the sidewalk reminds me of little villages in Austria where we used to go skiing, and of walking to a gondola that will take you up the mountain where the sun is crisp and the snow is sparkling.
An untouched glistening surface, so pure, so innocent, is sitting between parking cars on the sidewalk. And once it is broken in, there is a trail, showing a path, leading the way into any new adventure. Both images have their very own beauty inscribed into them. Foothigh, there is snow in my yard, laying all the tiny bushes my neighbor is nurturing with so much care, tiny red blossoms peeking out of the covers. The most bizarre plant there is the cactus reaching out high, with his sad little leaves wilting in the cold, like he was having a bad-hair-day.
Snow is covering the roof of the pretty old church in Bohemian Rixdorf in Berlin Neukölln that still carries substance from the 15th century, although most of it has been rebuilt after several destructions in wars. It reminds me of the pretty wooden churches I have seen in Slovakia and Ukraine. This being an area that was first settled by protestant refugees from Bohemia in 1737, and with the church having been rebuilt in 1757, it figures, and the visual evidence of the Eastern influence excites me. As the church now overlooks the Rixdorf Christmas Market (one of the more traditional ones), its red roof tiles sugar coated, it looks like it was taken out of a fairy tale.
Streets, cars, yards and churches – it all looks different, it is as though the world was in its entirety a work of art in which the artist had distorted, estranged reality for the on-looker to see it anew, as though laying eyes upon it for the first time. I didn’t come up with this concept of „making strange“ or „defamiliarization„, a guy called Viktor Sklovskij did about a hundred years ago, even before the master of German 20th century theatre, Bertolt Brecht, brought the idea to his drama theory. But it is exactly how snow works. I don’t just recognize things I know, walking past them in an unaware, unconscious manner. Instead I look at them, I see them, and I allow myself to rethink them from a new perspective.
Snow makes me look at the world differently. It allows me to rediscover things I thought I knew and see them in a new light and sound – whiter. Quieter. What a gift.