Far from the world’s being dead, as it had seemed indoors, we are presently, in some strange indefinable way, made intensely conscious of a curious overwhelming sense of life in the air, as though the crystal atmosphere was, so to say, ecstatically charged with the invisible energy of spiritual forces. In the enchanted stillness of the snow, we seem to hear the very breathing of the spirit of life. The cessation of all the myriad little sounds that rise so merrily and so musically from the summer surface of the earth seems to allow us to hear the solemn beat of the very heart of earth itself. We seem very near to the sacred mystery of being, nearer than at any other season of the year, for in other seasons we are distracted by its pleasurable phenomena, but in winter we seem close to the very mystery itself; for the world seems to have put on robes of pure spirit and ascended into a diviner ether.
The very phenomena of winter have a spiritual air which those of summer lack, a phantom-like strangeness. How mysterious this ice, how ghostly this snow, and all the beautiful fantastic shapes taken by both; the dream-like foliage, and feathers and furs of the snow, the Gothic diablerie of icicled eaves, all the fairy fancies of the frost, the fretted crystal shapes that hang the brook-side with rarer than Venetian glass, the strange flowers that stealthily overlay the windows, even while we watch in vain for the unseen hand! No flowers of summer seem so strange as these, make us feel so weirdly conscious of the mystery of life. As the ghostly artist covers the pane, is it not as though a spirit passed?
As we walk on through the shining morning, we ourselves seem to grow rarefied as the air. Our senses seem to grow finer, purged to a keener sensitiveness. Our eyes and ears seem to become spiritual rather than physical organs, and an exquisite elation, as though we were walking on shining air, or winging through celestial space, fills all our being. The material earth and our material selves seem to grow joyously transparent, and while we are conscious of our earthly shoe-leather ringing out on the iron-bound highway, we seem, nevertheless, to be spirits moving without effort, in a world of spirit. Seldom, if ever, in summer are we thus made conscious of, so to say, our own ghosts, thus lifted up out of our material selves with a happy sense of disembodiment.
There would, indeed, seem to be some relation between temperature and the soul, and something literally purifying about cold. Certain it is that we return from our winter’s walk with something sacred in our hearts and something shining in our faces, which we seldom, if ever, bring back with us in summer. Without understanding the process, we seem to have been brought nearer to the invisible mystery, and a solemn peace of happy insight seems for a little while at least to possess our souls. Our white walk in the snow-bright air has in some way quickened the