What happens to the land when the snow falls? Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? But if you really look, you see that snow and ice have surprising power to transform a landscape, turning it to something new and exotic. In the chapter “Winter Animals,” Thoreau writes:
“When the ponds were firmly frozen, they afforded not only new and shorter routes to many points, but new views from their surfaces of the familiar landscape around them. When I crossed Flint’s Pond, after it was covered with snow, though I had often paddled about and skated over it, it was so unexpectedly wide and so strange that I could think of nothing but Baffin’s Bay.”
Baffin Bay, of course, is in the Arctic between Canada and Greenland. Henry had no doubt read about it in the news about the Arctic expeditions of the times — especially the ill-fated Franklin expedition and all the expeditions that went to look for Franklin.
The snow falls and drifts and blurs the edges of things, distorts shapes, and turns frozen ponds into snowy plains. Sound is muffled and the quality of light is altered, and so is one’s sense of distance. Everything is brighter and the trees stand out black against the snow. You see farther into the leafless woods. To see land in snow is to see it for the first time.
(About “A Year in Walden”)