Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Cat’s Eyes 

How do you write about snow without repeating every cliché in the book?

When I see a soft white blanket draped over the landscape (which I don’t at the moment – it’s more like a ragged, threadbare shawl tossed in the dirt…) do the words represent what is in front of my eyes, or is it that the mere fact of snow – a piece of intellectual, almost abstract, information, decoupled from the senses of experiencing – has triggered a stereotypical response?

Take, for example, that brief sight this morning, glimpsed from the comfort of the train as it rushed on its way (definitely not motorcycling weather today!), of white-carpeted woods. Bare, spindly trees; motionless, mute, they offered no resistance to the night’s snow; the scene an archetype of primitive silence… There’s a reality, certainly, in my initial response, yet as I try and represent that response in words, the true, unique experience, still delicate in it’s newborn state, begins to disintegrate and disperse under the clumsy weight of all the past experiences of all the trees and woods and snow - real, imagined, portrayed in books and films (I have a memory of a black-and-white spy film containing just such a scene) – which together make up my personal history of these things. Am I seeing the woods in front of me, or is the picture in my mind an amalgam of all snowy woods in that inner history?

Our cats – two sisters – have known 2 winters (or is it 3 now? I lose track…) Today’s is the first snow they have ever seen. I watched Jazz, the extrovert of the pair, dash excitedly from side to side of the garden; I swear she was energised by the pure novelty of the experience.

How would I write about snow if I was experiencing it with the senses of a 3 year old cat?

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