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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 /FEBRUARY

First one falls silently, spiralling gently, magically. The moment it lands on the ground like a cold white butterfly, it melts and disappears. Then another slowly falls, and then another. As the snowflakes continue their descent they gradually form a white quilt over the world. When seen under a microscope every snow crystal has a unique pattern, revealing that nature is an architect of ice.Like a white rubber the snow erases footprints, roof tiles and pavements. Children gather at the windows exclaiming joyfully as they look out at the snow. They try to trace the path of single snowflakes on their journey to the ground, but the flakes fall so thick and fast that it is impossible for the eye to remain trained on that special one.

Pictures are drawn on misted windows and excited preparations begin to build a snowman. A carrot is procured from the kitchen, lumps of coal from the coalhouse for eyes and mouth, and an old hat and scarf rummaged for in drawers.

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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 /FEBRUARY
The snowman needs a broom as well, and another search ensues. Sleds are hurriedly sought on the back balcony where they have lain forgotten since the previous winter. If the cold weather and snow last long enough for icicles to form on the eaves, those too high to be knocked down with sticks make good targets for snowballs.In eastern Turkey the flat adobe roofs of the cottages must be swept regularly in snowy weather, otherwise when the sun comes out the melting snow will seep into the roofs. In this region the snow is so deep that you see sheep nibbling hay laid out for them on the cottage roofs.
Laundry frozen into hard boards hangs on washing lines, and horses struggle through the drifts. While for those in the milder western regions snow the depth of a man might seem a delightful dream, in the east it is a cruel reality. When Lake Cildir ices over, people break holes in the ice and let down nets to catch fish. At Ahlat on the western shore of Lake Van, fine snow blown by the wind highlights the old inscriptions engraved on Seljuk tombstones.
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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 /FEBRUARY
Turkish writer and artist Ferit Edgu has experienced many winters in eastern Turkey, and described them vividly, as in this passage about journeying to Mount Agri (Ararat): 'If you set out from Istanbul it would take you ninety days of walking before you found yourself in Agri. If there were strength left in your knees and breath in your lungs, another 21 days would bring you to the snowy summit of Mount Agri. You might not see Noah's Ark, but the view would be no less astounding.' While Edgu was writing these lines, pigeons were sliding as they landed on the snow covered domes of Ishak Pasa Palace in Dogubeyazit.

When snow makes the roads impassable, towns and villages are cut off in their own isolated world. Then the impenetrability of the towering mountains is felt even more forcibly. On days when the clouds disperse sufficiently to reveal the setting sun, it patterns the mountain peaks with red powdered purple stripes which make it seem as if the mountains are smouldering within, while you shiver in your thick coat.
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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 /FEBRUARY
Then yellow lights begin to shine out from the cottages, and grandmothers tell their grandchildren stories about people who became lost in the snow being rescued by dogs.

On moonlit nights you catch sight of the shadows of mountain goats flitting fearfully across the blue-tinted snow. Fierce gusts of wind fill the air with a fine white haze. Waterfalls turn to ice as night falls, bringing freezing temperatures, and when the sun emerges the following day wisps of mist rise from the stream as the waterfall comes to life. Great plates of ice are swept downstream, and on the slopes above, wintr'se rebellious flower, the snowdrop, pushes its head through the glistening blanket of snow. This is why the fairytales of eastern Turkey feature the snowdrop instead of the tulip as in those of the west.
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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 /FEBRUARY
While some of the inhabitants of the forests hibernate through the long winter, the foxes use all their cunning to hunt scarce prey in the snow. For wild animals winter is a thin line between starvation and survival. Weary migrating swans land on the shores of the Black Sea, and if they lie unmoving are invisible against the snow. In the mountain town of Mihaliccik in the western province of Eskisehir snow crystals gleam beneath the street lamps by night, and from far off can be heard the bells of the flocks of goats and the barking of the sheep dogs. At train stations in the province of Bilecik grimy red trains sleep on rails buried beneath the snow. Mudurnu Clock Tower wears a white hat. As the pine trees on Mount Ilgaz turn white, the murmur of a poem by Ahmet Muhip Diranas can be heard from the depths of the forest: 'By night snow falls upon us / From a dark rainy thought / Mingled with the rustle of the forest / And galloping through the flat blueness / Snow falls upon us gently.'
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WINTER'S WHITE QUILT:SNOW
2001 / FEBRUARY

Whenever snow falls I am reminded of a Japanese haiku, and the crows seem to acquire beauty. But snow is not just whiteness which makes black patches stand out. I will let Ismail Uyaroglu relate what else snow is: 'Snow brings three things / One, silence / Two, everyone thinks / I will say cold now / No, silence / Three, yes silence / Come with snow from the sky / Cats, even trees, hear it / White silence falls.'

 

 


* Akgun Akova is an author

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