At the northern end of the plain surrounding Poprad the Tatra Mountains leap so suddenly heavenwards that it seems as though God has hammered his fist down on the stony table and let its centre spring upwards. In September, one climbs up from the summery lowland through the early autumn change of colours and passes a low-hanging, misty-cool cloud before eventually finding oneself at a height of 2,000 metres where winter has just commenced. The 20-30 centimetre-thick layer of snow that covers the rocks here during this season does not form a really stable ground – not like it presumably does later in the year. With every step and tread one is in danger therefore of seeing one’s foot collapsing through the thin snow and getting sprained between the stones, which are a hard reality under the flimsy white appearance. This lends one’s gait a tentativeness and diffidence – and deprives the world of its evidence.
The wanderer usually believes that he knows what sort of ground he is traversing. He reckons that the ground will carry him through, so, it does not occur to him to question what it is actually composed of. Mostly, he perceives his surroundings as a rough sketch, as a type of sum or a repetition with variations. As it doesn’t really benefit him, the wanderer has no eye for details – at the most, he will occasionally take note of an anecdote, a special plant, a dangerous hole in the land, or the colour of a stone. But when the ground is covered all of a sudden with a brittle carpet of snow, he will want to know at once the composition of the ground below – and realise only then that there’s a dizzying range of possibilities of imagining the earth under one’s feet.
Many things in our life are probably only clear because we don’t need to question them. How would our perception of the world alter, however, if a light layer of snow were to cover everything now and then? And what would happen to our way of seeing ourselves if we were required to find our way through such a terrain on a regular basis?
First Publication: 25-9-2013