On Friday 2nd December, 2011 I saw snow fall for the first time in my life.
How is that possible? some of you may ask. You really haven’t seen snow fall before?
I’m Australian. Where I grew up the weather never got cold enough to snow. I’ve seen snow on the ground when visiting other places (three times in my life) but I’d never ever seen it fall from the sky. Now I live in China, and here it definitely gets cold enough to snow.
So for those of you who take snow for granted, let me take you on a quick journey.
“I Do Not Believe in Snow”
In the movie The King and I with Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, there is a classic scene where Mrs. Anna is teaching the King’s children. She mentions snow. The children, who have grown up in Burma, have never seen snow so she must explain what it is. Then the young prince stands up and defiantly says, ‘I do not believe in snow!’
We all get a good laugh out of the concept…but sometimes it’s not so far from the truth.
I was once talking to a 6-year-old Australian boy who proclaimed the same disbelief. I pointed to a picture of a snow-covered mountain.
‘See?’ I said. ‘The top of the mountain is covered in snow.’
He looked at me, sighing at my gullibility. ‘It’s white sand.’
And then I realised something. He had grown up in a city built on sand, where the local beach was blindingly pale. To him white sand was a reality. Snow was inconceivable (and that word does mean what I think it means).
Even at Christmas time, the average temperature in Australia is well over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). The closest a shop windows gets to frost is the tiny pieces of styrofoam strewn over the window dressing and white paint sprayed into the corners of the glass. Santa never sets foot out of the air-conditioned interior of the shopping centre because he’d overheat before he made it to the car park.
Now imagine seeing snow through those eyes.
The falling flakes conjuring up the idea of cloud dandruff.
Everything covered as if dusted with desiccated coconut.
The first crunch as you put your foot out the door, like you’d just walked into a slushy machine.
All that surrounds you is new, white, entrancing.
A Wider Context
Now think bigger. What in your life do you take for granted?
- Where you live.
- Your family.
- Your job.
- Your pets.
- Your experiences.
These are all things which you may view as boring. Yet, to other people, they are new, special, intriguing – perhaps something they’ve always wondered about but never actually experienced.
Stop and think for a moment. Look at yourself and your life.
Because these things give you your writing voice.
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