I still remember the first time I saw snow – I was 29 years-old and I’d been living in the UK for just over half a year. I’d met some people through the kids’ school and I was having a coffee at someone’s house one Saturday when the big, wet flakes came fluttering out of the sky like some old-fashioned washing powder. I ran outside, embarrassed by my own colonial excitement. Of course, I’ve seen plenty of snow in the 11 or so years since then – I’m a little snow-jaded.
Swedish Lapland. The Arctic Circle. I’m ridiculously pleased to be here. The air is dry as it's -35 deg outside. The snow sparkles like a million diamonds strewn beneath my big warm snowboots. I look at a flake on my arm, except it’s not a flake, it’s a proper crystal, like in the fairy stories, like something covered with silver paint you’d buy to scatter on your Christmas table or tuck into envelopes to fall all over someone’s floor as they take out their Christmas cards. Seriously, my heart squeezes at the perfectness of it.
We’re on snowmobiles, there are only three of us and it’s night time. It’s a little scary driving over these frozen lakes and rivers – Bjorn warns us not to stray from his path as there are places where the ice is thinner. He tells us to go quickly over one section and not stop as there is water on the track – water that’s so cold you’d die if you fell into it. The wind chill has got to be taking this down to way under -40deg. Thank goodness for all the snow gear I’m wearing. The snowmobile has heated hand grips, so my hands are ok in the mittens, but my feet are very uncomfortably numb. I’m starting to not enjoy the ride when we arrive at a tipi. We go in and Bjorn makes a fire which warms the place up a lot. I’m jumping about to make my feet warm, but its not working. He gives me a headtorch and tells me to go outside and run up and down the track.
This is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I’m claustrophobically puffing through a balaclava as I run three meters one way and three meters the other – always with one eye on the tipi in case it suddenly disappears into the trees. I go in when I’m sweating, rip off the balaclava and the jacket and breathe deeply. He makes us reindeer in a creamy sauce and boils a copper kettle on the fire for tea. The milk is frozen in its container so we have to warm it by the fire. He tells me there are brown bears in the woods, but they’re hibernating right now. We talk politics and economics and books. He’s so tall, must be nearly seven foot, I find out later he’s 65.
We move on, through a few more trees and then onto a plain which is actually a huge frozen lake. It’s snowing lightly, the snow flicking, sparkling in the snowmobile headlights. Then the sky begins to glow white in the north, and then the white becomes green and the green grows and undulates in the sky. The aurora borealis. The cameras are all frozen, so we can’t take a picture, but it’s ok. Apparently, the aurora have only been seen four times this winter, so we were so lucky.
Send your feedback or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org