Winter: an outsider’s experience

To many of my peers here at Swat, and I’m sure those who experienced snow for the first time over Snowzilla will empathize, my fascination with the cold and the snow seems amusing. It is not, however, the mere superficial aesthetic of snow that inspires me to write this article, but rather a curiosity that owes to the need to experience the romanticism of winter. We encounter the thematic references to the season of slumber in almost all forms of art, literature, and expression. For me, the curiosity to understand them internally, as opposed to writing about Robert Frost’s representation of it in English class, is what fuels my fascination. What is it about the bleak, harsh season that fascinates us?

From travelling the vast white landscapes of Skyrim, to the long mournful melodies of Tchaikovsky’s 1st symphony, it is obvious that winter has inspired creativity from within. Even without ever experiencing it for myself, everything from lines in Game of Thrones like “Winter is coming” to quests to end the eternal winter in “Frozen” have made it clear that winter is a time of difficulty, hibernation, and sorrow. It might be something we take for granted but for aeons we have known that winter is a time of survival, a relentless force of nature that pushes us to keep ourselves alive and reminds our species of its fragility.  Something about the cold instills melancholiness, fear, and a sense of insignificance which I understood even without ever living in a place where it can get unbearably cold. My fascination stems from an attempt to put a face to the artistic persona of winter that we have all encountered in varying forms.

The night Snowzilla hit, I remember stepping outside and my jaw immediately dropping. It was like all of Parrish Beach had been covered by a fresh blanket of castor sugar. The vibrant textures and colors of fall had slowly wilted, culminating in this newly created flatness. Vast, white and uniform. Beautiful in an otherworldly way. The initial excitement was widespread and we made the most of the massive playground that the campus had become. A hike in the Crum helped me realize how the snow didn’t just cover the environment but became it, completely replacing everything that was there before it. The change of the seasons reminds us that nothing is constant. The old eventually gives way to the new.  It sounds clichéd but is something that really hit home when I experienced it myself.

One would think that in this day and age, at least in a place like Swat, with central heating and warm clothing, the cold would not affect our lives significantly. Yet, immediately after the first few days of excitement we are reminded why winter still takes its toll on us, even in smallest of ways. On the cold days (and I know there haven’t been many this year) getting out of bed, touching metal doorknobs, and walking barefoot become such slight reminders. Even when dressed from head to toe, walking outside becomes a nuisance because the few square inches of skin that are exposed go numb. Motivation to leave the building dies and we feel much more lethargic. It is essential to remember that the same weather is amplified and can have devastating consequences on those who are less privileged. What is important is that we take these as reminders of the triumph of Nature and its effect on our lives.

Why am I writing about something as trivial as winter when there are so many more relevant and important matters at hand? Because sometimes it is essential to take a step back and reflect upon life based on our experiences with simple matters. Something as simple and as seemingly unimportant as winter and the change of seasons has had colossal implications throughout history. Our awe of nature is precisely why we romanticize winter. Here at Swat, we get caught up in the monotony and the grind of day-to-day college life but forget that the simplest things can remind us of our futility in the grand scheme of things.

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