Sensory Postcard: Snowshoeing

2009-12-31 11.51.12I think it was on this snowshoeing hike that I finally realized I had been thinking about this all wrong. It’s not really about aural postcards, it’s about sensory postcards. Snowshoeing is a very loud activity indeed, which is why I am not offering a sound recording. It was simply useless to record anything because all I’d hear is the loud slushy footfalls of my shoes and my laboured breathing. Instead a stopped a few times just for the sheer enjoyment of the multi-sensory experience around me. My original thought was of ‘enjoying the silence’ but once I stopped it really struck me that this wasn’t just any silence. What made it special was the entirety of the setting, the cold crisp air, higher elevation , brightness of the snow, the bits of sun poking through the sky, the hazy foggy landscape up top, the openness of the physical surroundings, and yes, of course the faint but characteristic magical sound of snow melting. Like tiny little clicks synaesthetically reminiscent of sparkles dancing on top of the sea on a sunny day. It’s not just that the sound was pleasant to hear, it was, I think the minimalist quality of it, the simplicity, that made the contrast to my usual surroundings (noisy urban soundscape) all the more striking. Noise in the city – to generalize grossly here – makes us have to raise our voices, the voices of our machines, and so the collective result is a never-ending loudness war. This sound of snow melting (and it actually reminded me of a similar sound I experienced kayaking in the West Coast – the sound of seaweed drying on rocks) makes us all have to quiet down. It certainly made me regret the racket we’re all making snowshoeing up the mountain and wish we could somehow soundlessly glide up there, all the while enjoying the sights and the sounds. My second strong sensory experience up on the mountain was of drinking hot chocolate. By the time we got up the first peak we were cold but pleasantly tired and energized. The sip of hot drink I took was almost painful due to the temperature difference of breathing cold cold air and then suddenly gulping a hot sip. I had this curious sensation of visualizing my esophagus exactly because i could feel it being illuminated by heat in between what i presume were my lungs full of arctic air. I don’t know why but this also seemed like a wonderful sensory experience – perhaps because of the crispness of the realization, the present nature of the experience. Being present is pretty difficult in everyday life, for me at least, being in my body in the now is challenging. So this was a gem of present moment. So yes, in conclusion, I really have to majorly rephrase my way of thinking about these experiences. While sound and listening have brought me to them, it is the sensoriality, in all its modality forms that I am really thinking about, writing about and feeling. I think this first started to become more clear to me on the Ghost Train, but I couldn’t really articulate it until now.


2 thoughts on “Sensory Postcard: Snowshoeing

  • Ah, yes, the sensory experience. Something so hard for us to recognize, yet affecting us all in all we do… I do a lot of thinking about this as an extension of my work with children with sensory issues. As always, so wise dear Vladimirova.

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