The lakes are frozen, skaters overtake the stumbling walkers. Around the shoreline the arms of the trees are decorated with white wings. To venture off the path surrounding the lake is to wade knee deep in a soft grip that is both warm and cold, sinking into the landscape like a crippled ship. The sky flakes busy themselves around the street-lamps, swarming like blind moths, a million floating unique crystals. Stationery, to contemplate this unprecedented deluge, looking back into the forest, the fairytale beauty is overwhelming perhaps exaggerated by the sense of silence. A blanket on a drum, a hand over the mouth, the black hand of space, suffocation in a submarine.
On the lake itself, the ice so thick that the fear of accidentally falling through to the prison of darkness below is beyond contemplation but one wonders where in the season does the possible error of chance lie? But here everyone seems to know when it is safe and when it is not. As they know how to function in extreme winter conditions, keeping the children warm, avoiding multiple car crashes, keeping the buses and the trains running and employing an army of snow ploughs and operators to work through the night, shifting mountains of snow into the corners of the highways and beyond the footpaths onto the verges, allowing access for everyone – and everything.
It is so cold that your bones freeze under your skin. You must keep moving save you freeze to the spot, a translucent sculpture, a glass statue. Whilst walking, your arms are tense tendrils, your gaze determined and forward as you strive for the warmth of indoors. The yellow glow of assorted lamps beyond the triple-glazed glass, a beacon to your survival. Despite the gloves, the layers, the double socks and the heavy shoes you feel the chill penetrating your extremities. A slight wind makes it worse, stinging your cheeks.
Finally, a palace of light, your destination looms ahead, encouraging you to make those final steps, staggering onwards with hope in your overworked heart, furiously pumping blood through your veins and around your body – out of breath a cloud hangs in front of your mouth then disappears into the brittle air.
It is some kind of impending horror as your demise seems so possible, a simple slip away, a broken down car, the realization of your vulnerability, your weakness against the forces of nature, a fragile shell struggling through what is a normal and a repeating winter scenario – how did they survive here in the past centuries?
When finally indoors, deep into the night with the snow still falling at 3AM (it’s -13 Celsius, 8 Fahrenheit), staring out of the window at this most dangerous beauty, this frightening splendour, a woman walks home and disappears behind the trees, unperturbed by the threat of the winter or the threat of her own kind, unlikely to be attacked in the general safety of Stockholm. What might lurk in the woods, in the cracked bark of the trees, what may lay buried, lying in wait under the wind-swept drifts and unsalted ice traps, only exists in the imagination, but the soft kisses on your cheeks allay all fears as you flirt with death so serene, so welcoming, you almost wish to die here in contented, dreamlike exhilaration.