Altered State

The snow, falling on my jacket, makes minute scratching sounds only audible when I am absolutely still. A few yards away, to my right, the same sound, muted by distance, echoes in a tinier way as tiny ice dry granules filter their way through the bone dry brownness of a hawthorn hedge.

It is 6.00pm on January 18th and the light is half gone; I am experiencing the giddy oddness of shifting, altering perspectives: the snow at once near and far: grey, white curves feet and miles away merge and smooth into my consciousness and force me into a new place-an altered mode of action.

Out in the snow, paused in the swelling darkness, I feel an ageless stillness, but acknowledge only the shifted perspectives of my eyes. Running in the dusk, feet fooled by the whiteness in my peripheral vision, my senses are mesmerised by a wholly altered soundscape: confusions of near and far, and newly minted perspectives. I stumble about as if in some sort of exhilarating dream: experiencing, but not understanding.

It snowed all day on Thursday April 4th: spring suspended. Through a big window, soft big flakes fell through an iron grey sky. Stuck as I was, unable to move in a hospital bed, my eyes were drawn constantly outwards and upwards through a living, falling curtain: a canvas where flakes cleansed, refreshed, wiped clean. To be motionless is to begin to understand the snow and its calm ability to re-write and redress.

When the snow goes, life cranks back into normality: sound swells to its usual levels, footsteps fall where and how you expect and the chance to see things differently fades.

Until, that is, the new opportunity of April snow.

In my altered state: the physicality of an evening run, is replaced with the immobility of a hospital bed ; the snow, inaudible through my window, etches and scratches, sifts and bumps through my mind. I begin to feel a fuller understanding of what changed states can bring: volume on silent; inner reception on maximum. The vagaries of distance and time shrink to nothing: ‘Time present and time past…contained in time future’: a more compelling reality. So I revisit my January run: it’s a route I know really well, but in the snow I am struggling to work it out-I can’t find the gate in the corner, I move, but I can’t tell if I’m moving. Perspective comes finally when I crouch, silent in the dusk-laden grey white middle of a field. Motionless and close to the snow my ears gradually begin to hear the fallen snow, a hiss of icy granules drifting across the surface; it is the sound of a blind, emotionless settling, a faint falling through the universe-a re-ordering, a new dispensation. I will not recognise it for another two months, but here, finally, is an order I can relate to: the sound of filtering snow falling through dry leaves, tiny crystals drifting, or silent tumbling flakes through a hospital window. For a moment all converges and I can begin to make sense of the more elemental truth of my altered state.


About ThePeregrineFiles

Enthusiast. Father of five, Deputy Head, Academic, ex Head of English, writer, grower of old-fashioned roses, wild swimmer. Exploring convergences of place and moment in my writing; constantly fascinated by the way that a particular place at a particular time creates its own unique resonance.
This entry was posted in Nature, Nature Writing, Nature, Place, Wild and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Altered State

  1. Ian Hill says:

    Thank you for the spare beauty of this post. I have also been writing on the clarity that can come at a time of illness; I appreciate the resonance of your words


  2. Kevin says:

    Wonderful, wonderful words. I’ve stumbled upon this blog for some unknown reason. I hope you continue to write.

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