A Sense of Snow (IRB)


ingibjorg2We’ve all heard the urban myth that in Inuit languages, there are many words for snow, much more than there are in the English language or most other western languages.

The belief being, I suppose, that because Inuits live in icy and snow covered landscape most of the time, their whole world revolves around snow. Apart from the fact that this isn’t the case – regarding the language that is – I think the fact of the matter is that people who are not used to snow, are the ones constantly wondering about it, at least if they’re trying to put themselves in the shoes of those who live near or within the Arctic Circle.

But it shouldn’t be hard to grasp that we’re not obsessed with snow; just like those who live in warm, sunny places are not obsessed about it and don’t have an incredible number of words for ‘sun’ or ‘sunshine’.

So, unless we get unusual amount of snow in a short period of time, or unbelievably bad snow storms that halt road traffic and/or air traffic, it’s just snow. Ice. Bad weather. Winter.

Yet, I wonder if we’ve become so used to it, so unaware of its beauty and so used to cursing it because it fills up the driveway and causes inconvenience…that we’ve forgotten how to appreciate it?

And I don’t mean by heading to the ski slopes to get a little exercise in circumstances that we preferably want to have under control at all times; good weather conditions for skiing, the right texture of snow, not too much snow, not too little snow; well operated ski lifts with moderately long queues. Yes, everything exactly as we like it but then, if the weather changes, to be able to pack our gear and drive off, away from the snow.

No, I mean, do we not notice the snow to appreciate it? Like those people in California don’t notice the sunshine anymore and don’t get it why visitors go on and on about the endless sunshine?

During my visit to Istanbul a couple of weeks ago, snow fell for the first time this winter and remained for a few days. It wasn’t much and didn’t really create chaos, but obviously, in such a place, people simply don’t have the right equipment to drive in much snow. Why should they?

So yes, the traffic slowed down and people were cautious about the slippery pavements, but one thing I noticed when walking around in snowy Istanbul was all the people playing with the snow.


Photo by Ingibjörg Rósa Björnsdóttir.

Adults, teenagers or children, it didn’t matter, they grabbed a handful of snow, just to see what it felt like. They threw snowballs at each other, or even at me. At one point I found myself in a playful snowball fight with three guys on their lunch break.

Waiters, who were clearing the snow from the ground around the outside tables and shaking snow off the marquises, were always smiling and just impressed by the piles of snow they swept up.


Photo by Ingibjörg Rósa Björnsdóttir.

And every snow pile was turned into a snowman and people in the streets helped each other out by adding bits and pieces to it; taking photographs off themselves next to the snowman, laughing.

It’s perhaps easy to laugh and enjoy some natural phenomenon that you only see for a little while every other year or so, but still, I would like to see Icelanders smile more often about the snow. It can be quite magnificent to look at, touch and play with.

It’s there, we can’t do anything about it; it comes and goes as it pleases. So why not play with it a little more? Why not play a little more, period?

Ingibjörg Rósa Björnsdóttir – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.