By Jonathan H. Marks
A FEW YEARS AGO, when I was on an international fellowship in Geneva, some friends asked me to go to the mountains for the afternoon. I said no because I had too much work to do. There’s always more work to do. But I felt I hadn’t done enough that day, and didn’t deserve to go. So I stayed behind in my office, read a couple of articles, and tinkered with an unsatisfactory sentence here or there in a draft chapter of the book I was writing.
When my friends returned from the mountains, one of them told me about a member of the group who had been born and lived near the equator. His reactions to seeing, touching, and tasting snow for the first time were, they said, something to behold! Suddenly, I was overcome with a sense of regret—even loss.
I grew up in Scotland, where it’s unthinkable not to have experienced snow. I’d missed the chance to see something familiar anew—through the eyes of a friend whose life had been so different from my own.
Today, in Pennsylvania, the place I now call home, I watch the first flurries of snow in another pandemic winter, and I’m struck by the utter silence of snowfall—how it still speaks to me, always speaks to me, wordlessly. I also understand for the first time why, in French, there’s a single word, toujours, that means both “still” and “always.”
Every moment we’re alive is an opportunity to see the world, still and always, for the first time.
Jonathan H. Marks
Jonathan H. Marks was born in Scotland, and divides his time among Pennsylvania, Provincetown, and London. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Times (London), and The Nation (among others). He read an earlier version of this essay at the Brooklyn Public Library’s “Night of Ideas.” www.jonathanhmarks.info