I did a couple of posts recently…
that talked about the feeling you get through your senses when it snows. Niagara Falls in Winter – Getting Outside is a Known Mood Booster was one. It has beautiful images of Niagara Falls trees draped in ice. But in the post, When I Started This Blog,
I mentioned, “A snow-covered nature is almost always quieted, its silence and stillness quieting a world filled with humans that make too much darn noise. Maybe that is why I like snow so much.”
Of course that is one important reason, but not the one based on physics.
How true it is the world quiets after a snow. The world looks very different too. Where some days due to inclement weather, the world reduces to black and white, while other blue-sky days the few colors left in the dormant landscape come alive.
As an architect, we learn a lot of things about how the environment works. The reason is to be able to work amicably within that nature and also to design structures that provide human comfort, safety and foremost, shelter without impinging too harshly on what surrounds the structure. We learn environmental science to reduce resource use.
In my post I forgot to say there is a “practical” reason why snow is quiet. It insulates and is a great sound absorbent.
When the earth gets a thick layer of fresh, fluffy white snow, sound waves are absorbed and dampened by the snow. It is very similar to the air-filled building materials – like fibers and foam – used to absorb sound in buildings. Fluffy snow holds a lot of air. Air is a good, free insulator.
When birds puff up their feathers, the feathers trap air to keep the birds warm. Snow insulates plants in winter. Nature always has been a good teacher in the way we design.
I think the “quiet of the landscape” effects the wildlife in a similar way. The animals appreciate a world with less humans. Unfortunately for them, this quiet of dampening snow has danger too. The predators know this, not to mention most animals are easily seen against a white landscape. Many animals keep inside their homes like we do on snow days.
If you Google “happiest places in the world” you see many Scandinavian countries on that list. Sure it is their particular way of life, but is it not a coincidence they have a lot of snow days?
As a kid, I looked forward to snow days, even those when the electricity went down. It meant candle or oil lantern lit rooms, family time, good food, fireplace chats, warm cocoa, all the things we associated to a time before modern technology. The TV was off.
As much as I like to visit a place with daily sunlit ocean views, I would not be happy without having it snow on occasion. Funny thing about those lists, Hawaii was also listed number one on one list when it just looked at the people’s happiness. Another thing to notice about these lists, the places themselves are some of the most beautiful places in the world. Coincidence? I think not.
I find living where I do, I sometimes have to look a little harder for that special happiness. It takes me out of my warm home and onto the trails to locate beauty. Today was an especially beautiful day with the sun peeking in and out between the clouds, all the while, fluffy flakes falling from the sky. Heaven…