The Beauty Of Snow

Dur­ing win­ter, it some­times snows in Ger­many, even in cli­mate change-raddled 21st cen­tu­ry. In the first weeks of Jan­u­ary 2019, we are expe­ri­enc­ing heavy snow­falls — a weath­er con­di­tion that results in a vari­ety of effects, from the impos­si­bil­i­ty to bike to work, over flight can­cel­la­tions or acci­dents. to snow­ball fights and deep pow­der ski­ing.

Weath­er is a phe­nom­e­non beyond the reach of human beings. It is broad­ly pre­dictable but unforsee­able in its details: what exact­ly does a 40% rain prob­a­bil­i­ty mean? Will we be able to play ten­nis? Weath­er is a per­fect topic to start with in con­ver­sa­tions, since it unites peo­ple: lots of fresh snow forces house own­ers to clear it early in the morn­ing and find­ing ways of not bank­ing it up in their neighbour‘s dri­ve­ways. While many adults feel stressed since heavy snow­fall forces them to change plans, get late to work, etc., most kids enjoy throw­ing snow­balls, go sled­ding, or sim­ply savour snor­lakes falling on their faces.

I per­son­al­ly love heavy snow­fall: it forces peo­ple to change their plans, to think dif­fer­ent­ly, to find alter­na­tives: work from home, skip the ride to the mall, resched­ule your meet­ings. From neu­ro­science, we know that chang­ing rou­tine behav­iours from time to time has tremen­dous­ly pos­i­tive effects on the human brain that is able to rewire its neu­rons which is called neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, and on our men­tal abil­i­ties in gen­er­al. How­ev­er, human beings don‘t like chang­ing their behav­iour. We most­ly do it when being forced to. That‘s where snow­falls come into play.

A snowflake never falls in the wrong place

One of my favorite Zen proverbs — A snowflake never falls in the wrong place — adds anoth­er dimen­sion — time: it com­bines the sym­bol­ic snow and human sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, and there­with leads us to ques­tion the value of the events of our past and the judge­ments we tend to make about them. By chang­ing plans, we are forced to try new ways and see where they lead us to. In most cases, that couod sim­ply to realise that tak­ing the sub­way is more effi­cient than using the car. Or, you realise that work­ing from home is more effi­cient than being present at the office and you plan to ask your boss about the idea to agree upon one day of home office.

Then, there are are other, more sub­tle, char­ac­ter­is­tics of snow. A closed snow cover has a great visu­al effect: it lights up the night sky, and even dur­ing an oth­er­wise grey win­ter day, the snow‘s glim­mer adds to a more pos­i­tive atmos­phere. Com­pare that to grey-black rain-soaked roads! Addi­tion­al­ly to the visu­al effect, there is an audio effect. If you live near a road with some traf­fic, you know — dur­ing win­ter — if there is a snow cover on the roads because you don‘t hear the cars, or at least they sound soft­ened, or quilt­ed. Since I am some­what aller­gic against per­pet­u­al noise, I real­ly appre­ci­ate the cush­ion­ing effect of snow here.

Let it snow!

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