Tell me about your experiences and memories of snow!

Today was one of those blessed winter days. Snow outlined the dark branches of bare trees, covered park benches, coated cars, lined slanting roofs and sprinkled prettily on the conifers, making them look like yummy-green, ice-cream cones. Mellow sunlight illuminated the pristine, white winterscape, with not a breath of wind to make things unpleasant, even though it was quite cold at -10 C.

It was a day to celebrate the white stuff – the fifth element – as described by Canadian author, Farley Mowat, in his compelling short text, “Snow.” Air, water, earth and fire do not cut it for Mowat. There is that important fifth element, not only on Earth; it is also “an immortal presence” in the Universe.

To Mowat snow is “the bleak reality of a stalled car and spinning wheels impinging on the neat time schedule of our self importance… the sweet gloss of memory in the failing eyes of the old as they recall the white days of childhood… the resignation of suburban housewives as they skin wet snowsuits from runny-nosed progeny… the invitation that glows ephemeral on a women’s lashes on a winter night… the gentility of utter silence in the muffled heart of a snow-clad forest.”

The text is part of one of his early short story collections called The Snow Walker, which was made into a film. Mowat wrote extensively about the people of the North – the Inuit – and their unique landscape. It can be found online at:

Another story I always think of at the onset of winter is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. The Snow Queen is deadly, rather than ‘sympathetic,’ hence all the more fascinating:

“The flake of snow grew larger and larger; and at last it was like a young lady, dressed in the finest white gauze, made of a million little flakes like stars. She was so beautiful and delicate, but she was of ice, of dazzling, sparkling ice; yet she lived; her eyes gazed fixedly, like two stars; but there was neither quiet nor repose in them.”

And here’s a description of her palace:

“The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds. There were more than a hundred halls there, according as the snow was driven by the winds. The largest was many miles in extent; all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent! Mirth never reigned there; there was never even a little bear-ball, with the storm for music, while the polar bears went on their hind legs and showed off their steps. Never a little tea party of white young lady foxes; vast, cold, and empty were the halls of the Snow Queen. The northern lights shone with such precision that one could tell exactly when they were at their highest or lowest degree of brightness.”


Inspired perhaps by the Snow Queen’s singular realm is an ice-hotel in Quebec:

Inside, I am sure it’s quite warm, for blocks of ice fitted together provide splendid insulation, as Mowat informs us in Snow.

Then there’s the telling song by Quebec singer Gilles Vigneault, Mon pays c’est hiver (My country is winter)!

Given melting mountain ice and dwindling glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic, we can only admire, with poignant intensity, the power and majesty of the fifth element, displayed in this video clip: