The first snow fell this weekend, and Rīga looked like it had come straight out of a fairy tale. I was reminded just why winter (I mean proper winter, with snow not rain, and white not grey) is my favourite time of year.
Snow simply makes everything better. The naked trees have a fluffy white blanket covering their bare branches, children and dogs alike are injected with an electric energy as they run and play in the snow, and grownups, may not admit it, but they too have a glint in their eye as the otherwise grey and dark time of year becomes light, and beautiful. Having gotten used to it being dark when you go to work and dark when you leave, suddenly, while wondering the streets at midnight, you can’t tell what time it is, because the snow makes the city glow.
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of snow. As kids my sister and I would take our sleds, run out of our soviet built sleeper suburb block of flats to what can only be described as a tiny mound behind the house, where countless other children were sliding down the slightly pathetic excuse for a hill, smiling, laughing and screeching for joy. If we were lucky, and our grandparents could be persuaded, we would go to Grīziņkalns, a stunning park in an old working class neighbourhood (which incidentally is becoming one of the more demanded locations to live these days) where an actual hill exists, which you could slide down for a whole 20 seconds before having to get up and run back to the top.
Even my first sentence was snow related. My trusted dog, and nanny for all intents and purposes, Karo was pulling my sled, with me on it, down a hill and he crashed into some bushes. I remember this moment vividly – he was really excited and started playing and chewing the branches. “Ava kuki am am” I said, which translated into equally cheesy baby talk equates to something along the lines of „woofer tree yum yum”. My sister swore for the first time, at age 3 or so, because of snow – we had built a fine-looking snowman (we thought so anyway), and some other kids (who clearly didn’t think it looked all that good) ran up and kicked it down. There is no translation for the word she used, as it was her own alteration of the Russian word “durak”, but it’s a fond memory nonetheless, and we still laugh about it now, over 20 years later. As years went by we learned the joys of skiing, and snowboarding, and building forts (who doesn’t love building forts?).
While I lived in Norway my love for snow took on a whole new angle as I saw the ecstasy of my Latin American and African classmates seeing, feeling and tasting snow for the first time. The looks on their faces, the smiles, the shouts of joy, were contagious. And their exhilaration didn’t subside – 5 months later, when us Nordics were already sick of the snow, our Latino pals would still await us with snow balls after class.
My point is that snow is electrifying and calming, beautiful and magical, and right now Rīga has a lot of it. The gloomy November feeling is gone, and has been replaced with anticipation of snowball flights to come, of mulled wine at Christmas, of the wind in your face as you speed down a snow covered hill, regardless if you’re on skis, on a sled or even a tray borrowed from a dining hall (the equipment of choice for students the snowy world over), and the sound of snow crunching beneath your feet.
For all those who like to complain about snow - I know it’s cold, and the pavements aren’t always easy to walk on, and your hair gets wet, and makeup streams down your face. But that’s not important – think of the excitement a person feels when seeing snow for the first time, or imagine the joyous shrieks of children as they slide down icy hills, watch the dogs run around in pure excitement burying their noses in this inexplicable white substance. Enjoy it for what it is. After all, we will have another 5 months of it. I sure will.
Photo: Basteja park as the
first snow fell. © Daina Ruduša