You are probably scratching your head and wondering what you are about to get yourself into with a title like this. No, it hasn’t snowed in Berlin, and it’s not expected to either. And for the record, much as I like winter, I hate snow, and many of you (I pause for you laughter) are aware that I absolutely despise the Christmas carol “Let It Snow”. No! Do not let it snow! I’ve slipped and skidded often enough thank you very much. My knees and hips can’t take another snow battering, and each time I stomp through it I end up aching in places I never knew I could experience pain there! (The same applies to Nordic Walking mind you).
Winter, as I have come to appreciate, is much more than just the drab and barren landscape, or the cliche of obnoxious amounts of endless snow, which may or may not be present in the flatlands such as Berlin. It is not the year to be dazzled the tree ornaments either, but by the light.
My dialogue with light began in autumn when the changing colours of the leaves introduced a more dramatic contrast, hues that invited contemplation and introspection alike, but also drew you into spaces that filled you with awe. Winter doesn’t draw you in, but rather does the complete opposite, and places you in an extraordinarily artistic blankness. If you are like me, who has grown up with the hustle and bustle of metropolitan sights and sounds, then noise is basically taken for granted and we seem to keep adding more in one way or another, either visually or audibly. A concrete jungle makes the cacophony even louder and our tolerance for it simply coasts along, immune and indifferent to how it corrodes our souls. Consequently, when we remove ourselves from all this, it seems almost unnatural and disconcerting to be surrounded by silence. Remember the expression silence is deafening? It shouldn’t be that way at all, and these lockdowns have given us a marvellous opportunity to rediscover what absence of noise and silence truly mean, because they are not the same thing, nor are they interchangeable.
Absence of noise is physical. Silence is spiritual. Stillness is the path.
Several decades ago, before I laid hands on my first camera, my parents sent me to art classes after school. I was never really allowed to hang out with the neighbourhood children and had to be kept constantly busy with either sports, art or dance classes. In my childhood, idleness and playtime were never options. Brushes and canvases were my playground, a strange form of disciplinary measure to keep me still and out of trouble. I am not 100% convinced that it worked, but at least I learned to play around with colours – pencils, crayons, brushes, oils, water colours, and charcoal. There is something wonderfully liberating about staring and starting with a blank canvas, as if the world is in my hands to do what I want.
The camera and notebooks eventually replaced the easel and colouring books, as I explored these other worlds to immerse my soul in. Thanks to the digital age, I am finally able to come full circle and reacquaint myself with an old friend – art. Nature, specifically winter, is my new playground and I get to play around with light and the absence of noise in the pursuit of silence.
Then there is the surreal winter light that touches everything with an ethereal mood, reinforcing my interest in clouds and dramatic skies. The lesson here is not to walk with your head down during winter (well yes, to see where you are going and not to slip) but beyond the marvellous naked trees are also the clouds and streaks of light: