Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Shunbun no Hi/Seasons 7: Mudchute Farm, London

This post combines the Shunbun no Hi series (named after the Japanese spring equinox holiday celebrating nature and living things) with the Seasons series (juxtaposed images of the same scene in different seasons).

Move your cursor over the image below (or touch on mobile), and it should change to another image of the same scene.

Base photo:17 March 2015
Mouseover photo:28 February 2018
Approx. coordinates:51.49°N, 0.01°W

Unusually for the Seasons series, the images above were taken around the same time of the year (only 17 days apart). The base photo doesn't look very vernal, but this has been a weird year; the mouseover photo from March 2015 is more representative. It snowed again yesterday, but today it feels like Spring is finally here.

Happy equinox, everyone.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Ice and Snow

While Europe went through an unusually cold spell, I happened to be reading – coincidentally, not out of any desire to be in tune with the seasons – two books about ice and snow.

I had no special interest in the Ice Age until I started following Professor Jamie Woodward on Twitter, but soon I was sufficiently hooked to buy his short introduction to the subject. Before reading this book, I knew in a vague sort of way that once upon a time the world was more icy than it is today, but I've only now started to get my head around it. For example, over seven years ago, I posted about camping in a cirque (and was duly censured for failing to use the word cwm). If you asked me, I could have told you, from high-school geography lessons, that cirques – or cwms – were formed by glacial erosion. But think about what that means. There was a time, during the last ice age, when a glacier filled that valley. I feel like I always knew but did not know that, somehow. Perhaps I am not explaining myself very well.

Before that, I read Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow. It's classic Nordic noir, but also a kind of Moby Dick of snow and ice. While Høeg never quite reaches Melvillean levels of digression – that chapter about rope! – or, for that matter, profundity, we do get meditations on glacial morphology, footprints in the snow, and the structure and properties of ice.

But what initially drew me to the book when I picked it up at the library is that it began with a map, and it was of a city I am now familiar with. The story begins in Copenhagen.
It is freezing, an extraordinary −18°C, and it's snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine, the snow is qanik – big, almost weightless crystals falling in stacks and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.
There is ice in the harbour, firm enough to walk on, at least for those who have "a good relationship with ice".

Some months ago, when Anasua moved to Copenhagen, I asked a Danish friend if the lakes freeze in winter. "It does happen," she said, "but I've only seen it three or four times in my life. So don't get your hopes up."

Sure enough, this year, the lakes froze over. And I can report that as of yesterday, there is ice in the harbour.

I consider myself lucky to have lived in cities where it snows. Going to a snowy place on holiday is not quite the same; to see the familiar transformed by snow can be quite an experience. Here is our balcony garden in London: in summer, and last week.