Psychogeography - Footprints In The Snow
Something a little different for the blog today, a bit of psychogeography (at least, I think it is.). I wrote a version of this for my Non-Fiction module at university and workshopped it in class. I've tried to polish it a bit for the site, and I'm actually quite happy with how it turned out! I'll try writing a bit more non-fiction for the site if this is well received.
Footprints in the Snow
In the February of twenty twenty-one, it snowed heavily in my hometown. I watched it flutter down from the sky from my vantage point at my bedroom desk, the flakes twirling and dancing like delicate fairies. It’d settled on the ground like a heavy winter quilt; something stark and bright to vaguely catch the corner of the eye as I worked.
It’d been a curiosity at first, and nothing more. I was far too engrossed in the new and confusing world of university study to pay any attention. Everything beyond my notes and lectures had rather slipped my attention.
The pandemic had caused my world to shrink dramatically, and now the weather was gnawing further at those precarious boundaries. Snow has a way of doing that; rendering any and all travel into awkward navigation of a world that isn't quite like the one that exists for the rest of the year. It warps perspective disconcertingly, making things seem bigger or closer together. It was my hometown, but then somehow it wasn't; the snow holding the world’s vitality captive beneath the folds of its great white blanket.
I had gotten to the end of my university day, lectures done and work completed, burdened with that peculiar feeling of restlessness and disconnection that comes with doing an entire day’s work without so much as leaving your seat. Dinner was an hour away and bedtime was even further than that, so I pulled on my boots and stepped outside for a good refreshing walk. Walking had been a hobby of mine once, before the pandemic, and perhaps the only way I could properly clear my head. That had all been rather spoiled now, though I was tentatively trying to pick it up again whenever the lockdown allowed it. In the biting winter cold, a mask was good for more than its intended purpose.
My boots left big, wedge-like shapes on the ground behind me. That’s another of snow’s qualities; the ability to hold crisp footprints like temporal echoes. None of life’s little stories could hide from me now, their traces held like ghosts to be laid bare to the world.
I followed the unmistakable shape of my Dad’s work shoes up the garden path, the tracks set far apart in his long and heavy stride. They ended in a big square patch where the snow was thin, located just where the shadows fell beneath his car. Two tire treads jutted out from the shape like the tail of a comet, trailing far into the distance and marking where he had sped off that morning for a workday he was yet to return from.
I chose to walk in the other direction, out into the open fields, following the joyful pawprints of a medium-sized dog, intermingled with the unenthused boot tread of a less happy owner. I thought of my neighbour being dragged along the snowy path by his spaniel, and I couldn’t help but smile to myself. It was alright for him, I thought. He had a thick winter coat of black and white fur; the snow was none of his concern.
There were lots of prints to be found out in the fields, and I tracked them like the keenest hunter. The trail of the man and his dog ended quickly as it looped back to suburbia, but I soon found it replaced by the delicate tracks of sweet little birds. They hopped in circles and trailed all about, occasionally leaving finger-like wing forms from the graze of their flight feathers as they took off. There were cat prints, too. Not my cats’ prints, they were too busy snuggling up inside, but the sprightly markings of the energetic young calico that lived down the street. She was a strange beast, and she always liked to be out when the weather was at its worst.
But the strangest print was the one I left behind. You see, the ground in the fields was unstable to begin with. The combination of the wind and snow had turned it into a trip hazard minefield of perilous snowbanks and valleys. I found myself falling as I trod through knee-height snow, leaving an unseemly face print in my wake as I tumbled. I thought of obscuring it to save myself some dignity but then decided against it. I would leave it for other travellers to gawk at as they passed through this winter wonderland.
I had created one of life’s little stories entirely by accident, and now it was my job to leave that story for the world to enjoy.