Category Archives: Photography

let’s build a snowman: five things today’s snowfall taught me.

“Emily: We can’t just throw him out in the snow.
Walter: Why not? He loves the snow. He’s told me 15 times.”
–from the film, Elf

1. Never say never. “Does it snow where you’re from?” many British colleagues and friends asked me before I left London for home. I assured them I’m from Virginia Beach and besides the freak occurrence of last winter’s Snowpocalypse, we never get snow. Maybe a few flurries that get the weathermen all in a tizzy, but nothing note-worthy. Even yesterday, my grandmother worried our breakfast plans for Monday would be put off because of forecasted snow. “Let the snow fall first,” I assured her, “And then we’ll deal with it.” Well, darn if she wasn’t right. We woke up today to yet another epic snowfall, a few inches at first and now measuring well over a foot.

2. My brother is the coolest. Earlier in the day, he went outside wearing shorts, knee-high blue soccer socks, and hiking boots. He rang the door and when I asked him what he was doing, he replied, “Just browsing.” I could tell he was thinking how weird it is, now that we’re older, to not be racing outside at the first sign of snow.  Then, sometime later this afternoon, he came downstairs looking like a terrorist (I know that’s not exactly PC), black mask pulled down over his face, only his eyes and nose uncovered. “Where are you going?” my dad asked, to which my brother answered, “Gonna build a snowman.” But of course, right?

3.  I’m still a kid at heart. I was pretty content to spend the day indoors, warm and toasty by the fireplace, but I knew I couldn’t let my brother have all the fun. I pulled on old clothes, tall boots, and a winter cap and trailed outside after him. We quickly devised a strategy, using buckets and boogie boards to transport snow from the backyard to the front–keeping the front yard relatively pristine except for a trench through a foot or so of snow to our “construction site.” An hour and a half later, our snowman was complete–mullet and all.

4. Skiwear is unbelievably warm. My winter wardrobe often errs on the side of impractical, my jackets never sufficient on their own, leading me to wear layer (after layer) of various sweaters and hoodies. I did the same today, but pulled on an extra proper winter jacket of my brother’s on top. “You’re wearing the one with naked women on it?” my mother asked, having never been a fan of the soccer brand, Kappa. Scandalous or not, the jacket proved warmer than I’m used to and just what I needed to keep me going outside.

5. Snow isn’t as exciting to today’s kids as it used to be. Although the prospect of a snow day doesn’t seem to be going out of style anytime soon, I was amazed at how quiet our suburban street was…all day. Only once did I see two kids playing outside, and that was for a mere fifteen minutes or so. Gone are the days, apparently, of spending all day romping around in the snow, insufficiently dressed, red-cheeked and wide-eyed with wonder. My brother and I spent the day reminiscing about the snow days of our childhood and for a few moments, it felt like no time had passed at all. Our beloved mother even had hot chocolate (with marshmellows, of course!) waiting for us on the stove inside.

Does it get any better than that?

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the long way home.

“Paying attention, I learned again, is the foundation of great travel writing – and as a bonus, it deeply and resonantly enriches your everyday life as well.”
–Don George, Gadling

It had been a week to remember. A brisk drop in temperatures preceded Britain’s earliest snowfall in nearly two decades, since November of 1993. But a surprisingly mild weekend set about erasing all sign of the record-setting snow and Sunday’s cloudless blue sky filled my lungs with crisp chill air. It was the perfect sort of day to bridge autumn and winter, I thought as I set out for Tolworth, a little area just south of Surbiton. My editor for Kingston’s student magazine had wanted me to go report on a sports alumni event taking place that afternoon, a series of matches playfully pairing current and ex-students against each other.

Me being me, lacking the standard allotment of common sense and all, didn’t think to check with my editor first to see if the snow, the same snow that incapacitated nearly every other aspect of British life this week, might not have had a similar effect on the sports event. Indeed, as I rushed off the bus and down Tolworth Broadway towards the sports grounds, I was greeted by nothing but lonely, snow-streaked fields.

I kicked the fence bearing a cheery blue sign: ALL SPORT CANCELLED. My typical self would have been, to put it lightly, annoyed, perturbed, even angry, perhaps? But for some reason, as I headed back to the bus stop, I was fine. With my afternoon suddenly as clear as the sky above me, I felt something close to happiness and made a deal with myself: if I walked the hour back to Kingston, I could use the money I would have spent on bus fare on a coffee from the library cafe (yes, I am on that kind of budget right now…).

Once I started walking, I couldn’t have been more pleased with my decision, iPod popped in and set to a dance/house playlist to put a little pep in my step. Gratefully I’d brought my camera along, as I was just in time for the rich sunlight that comes with the Golden Hours (which sadly start in mid-afternoon this time of year). Ordinary rows of shop buildings were gloriously illuminated, shadows dancing blithely on their walls, and I started to shift into travel-writer-mode, i.e. giving attention to the details so easy to overlook: the items in an antique shop’s storefront window, the diversity of restaurants and food markets to choose from, and a road sign for Kingston Town. How cool, I thought, to live in an official “historic market town.”

But what I loved most is what I will always remember of England in the winter: church spires and barren branches. Sunlit and standing tall, the steeples were everywhere, appearing above houses and shops and framed often by spidery branches stripped of their leaves.

There’s something to be said for taking the long way home.

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Filed under London, Photography, Travel