Dylan Thomas and the Timelessness of Winter’s Wonderland

A thick layer of white, soft and dreamy and deep, covers what was once mud and shrivelled growth. The slumbering earth shimmers now – even the once-grey mounds of snow along the road; everything is fresh and white today.

The snow softens the scene, dampens the harsh city sounds, wraps us all in a blanket of beauty and warmth.

And it keeps snowing, layer upon layer, overhanging roofs so that the houses look like large, fairytale mushrooms. In places, it melts and drips into long, slender icicles, turning the world into a magical ice kingdom.

The constant snow, especially right before the school holidays, brings excitement and grants the wishes of so many children. It is the proverbial Winter Wonderland, and it will be a holiday full of skiing and skating and sledding and snow angels.

But before tomorrow, when the children will charge home full of sugar and brimming with the euphoria of being off school, today is a day for hot chocolate, for curling up fireside with blanket and book, for reading Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales – my favourite winter book and one I have delicately tried to lead my son to year after year. This year, he has discovered it all on his own.

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen…

Though written in the 1950s about a Welsh seaside town, I can almost see that little boy outside our window today, as Dylan Thomas dips his hand down into his snowy memories.

The snow acts as a great equalizer so that everything before me could be now, or part of the hazy past. As I stand at the window, I let my eyes go out of focus so that the red brick houses and the snowy streets remain but the cars and the people and the other evidence of our modern world blur and fade.

I imagine I am looking out over a time gone by, over past winters, and the consistency and timelessness of the scene holds me spellbound.

There were church bells, too…in the bat-black, snow-white belfries, tugged by bishops and storks. And they rang their tidings over the bandaged town, over the frozen foam of the powder and ice-cream hills, over the crackling sea. It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy under my window; and the weathercocks crew for Christmas, on our fence.

Again, I think of the magic of the season. It has nothing to do, really, with religion or faith, but with nature, and with nature’s power; its power to change, to wipe clean, but to do so at times in a delicate and breathtaking way.

There is a sense, before Midwinter, of time standing still, of a calm before we round the corner of the Winter Solstice and begin our charge forward towards melting and warmth and longer days.

The enduring, eternal flow of the seasons.

Stand still and let it cocoon you in the silence of the moment while I try to find the words to capture it.

Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night.

 

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