A sliver of unadulterated joy
The pristine snow travelling further down the mountain tops in this Alpine paradise presents a sharp contrast to the place I call home
So last Friday I got all dolled up. Not skinny Barbie-like, but more girl-from-tropics-dressing-for-the-Alps. I borrowed my partner's socks and shoes (we realised I'm just half-a-size smaller than him, and also, his socks are not just thick, but were knitted by his late grandmother). I wore three or four layers of sweaters of varying thickness atop a pair of jeggings I'd bought some years ago in Dubai. I put on the long coat I borrowed from my ex, which he guaranteed was meant to withstand winter in New York, and the gloves I had carried with me from Delhi, hand-knitted by a Tibetan refugee woman, a warm toque that clearly belonged to my sister, and to complete the look, my white Himachali shawl, gifted to me by my Austrian artist friend, Marlene.
I was ready for the 25-minute drive from Tramin. We had decided, in the end, to drive up to Aldein, 20 km away. It had been raining for hours. It was 9am but felt like 7am. It was dark and misty, and the autumn yellow of the vines offered sharp contrast. We drove past the neighbouring Neumarkt and the rain continued to hit the windshield and all around us was its pervasive sound. Until suddenly, we ascended into silence, and I saw snow falling for the first time in my life.
We parked near the town centre and walked uphill to the church, which is perched on an incredible vantage point. In May this year was when I'd first seen the valley from that very location. It was a clear summer day, the antithesis of now. I was awed by the spectacle; the landscape colonised by a monotonous shade of white, sometimes alerting you to bits of colour that lay underneath. We made a joint snowball which we cast into the horizon. We had to be quiet, Mass was underway in the church. We could hear the Alleluia being sung in a tune so familiar that I had to sing along.
After a while, we walked away from the church, aware that the service might end soon. I stopped in my tracks. I detected a scent I was unable to pinpoint; something was burning that wasn't chestnuts or wood meant for heating. It was incense. The holy fragrance commingled with the freshness of falling snow, solidifying into a memory.
I'd been smiling like an over-enthusiastic girl-child ever since the snow sighting. I couldn't help myself. Everything felt new and amazing. I remembered how every December, my sister and I would decorate our artificial Christmas tree and thin out swabs of cotton so it resembled snow. But texturally, the two materials had nothing in common. Snow wasn't even like ice. It was softer, flakier. Because it was only about minus two degrees, it shed moisture upon landing on a warmer surface. It tasted clear and sure of itself. I was so mesmerised by how it fell, I kept turning my face towards the sky to gleam at its vertiginous descent, and invariably, I'd stick my tongue out to offer a landing site for a few flakes.
We walked around Aldein for a bit. My steps were extremely slow and measured, like someone distrustful of the unfamiliar. I was so sure that given how clumsy I generally am, I'd fall and land straight on my ass. When we walked toward a less inhabited, somewhat woodier area of Aldein, my partner asked me to pose so he could take a picture. He was clearly an intrigued witness as I experienced the whole affair. As I was poised against the white, white snow, I had this sudden consciousness that the only exposed part of my body was my dark chocolate-coloured face. I'm wearing the silliest smile that's thankfully disguised slightly by the natural snow filter. But it's the look of someone who's experiencing a sliver of unadulterated joy.
A week since then, winter is still settling in. Each morning I see traces on mountain tops of how far down the snow has advanced. I'm writing my column on a Wednesday because I'll spend tomorrow helping my partner finish part two of the Pink Lady harvest. This afternoon, after hours of intense rain accompanied by thunder and lightning, the sun had made an appearance.
My partner went to the fields in the valley to harvest with Uncle Johann and his wife, Olga. He sent me a picture of the surrounding mountains, now lavished with fresh snow. I'm looking forward to gazing at how they might glisten in those quiet moments when the sun may peer through clouds as I pick apples.
I have barely a month left in this Alpine paradise before I return to the devastating smog of Delhi. Despite how much I love my apartment, and my close family of friends who, like me, have come to call the city home, I am now certain my time as one of its residents must soon come to an end. I have found there is too much I want to live for rather than to submit to a slow and poisonous eventual death, the consequence of performing a bodily function as involuntary and necessary as breathing.
Deliberating on the life and times of Everywoman, Rosalyn D'Mello is a reputable art critic and the author of A Handbook For My Lover. She tweets @RosaParx
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