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The magic of snow falling in Joburg

My title - ‘The magic of snow falling in Joburg’ - should be enough to convince any reader of its premise, without further explanation. The last snowfall in our neck of the woods was August 2012 (and I missed that one), so the fact that it started snowing on Monday morning, the 10th July 2023, was indeed a plausible reason for me to rush outdoors in unrestrained childlike wonder and delight.

It’s not even that I haven’t ever seen snow before. I've had my fair treat of winter wonderland landscapes: in February 1991 whilst living in the UK, in January 2005 in all its blizzard glory in Canada, and in 2014 while touring New Zealand’s scenic South island.

And yet there was still something indescribable and enchanting about this Joburg snowfall.

“Snow was falling, so much like stars filling the dark trees that one could easily imagine its reason for being was nothing more than prettiness.” -Mary Oliver (Snowy Night).

Granted, our brief and light snowfall did not allow us to build snowmen or make snow angels, but the hushed stillness that only belongs to snow gently falling did do something else…

It made us pause (just for a moment)

‘Slow living’ in Joburg is as foreign a concept as snow falling in Joburg. Entrenched in our patterns of daily behaviour, we are more familiar with the energy buzz of being (hectically) busy; deadlines, meetings and networking. We have things to do and places to be - ASAP! Rushing in traffic, rushing to work, rushing for the school drop-off, rushing to get shopping done and only stopping for a quick coffee on-the-go.

So when a momentary snowfall descended on the City of Gold, the unexpected joy of daily life playing out in slow motion was truly something to behold.

Traffic became unrushed - just for a moment - as drivers didn’t want to miss the fragile whisper of delicate snowflakes floating all around, transforming everything into that which sparkles. (Destinations can wait).

Fellow remote workers in coffee shops closed their laptops and ‘rushed’ - it’s what we do - to the windows to actually slow down and take in the wintry spectacle. (Deadlines and meetings can wait).

Children bundled up, spilling and tumbling out of classrooms to play in the snow. (Lessons can wait).

Happy child playing in the snow

No wonder Maria, in the Sound of Music, sang about “snowflakes that land on my nose and eyelashes” being one of her favourite things.

And that is why I intend to hold onto the memory of this magical moment as it may be 10 years or more before it snows in Joburg again.

It made us connect (with strangers)

‘Positivity’ is not a word I would use to describe the general and current mindset of Joburgers. (We don’t have time to be positive). 😉To be fair, there is currently much for us to legitimately be negative about: failing infrastructure, potholes for Africa, lawless drivers, illegitimate traffic controllers etc, etc, etc.

Then it snowed in Joburg! And somehow something magical happened. Although generally a friendly brunch, we are not prone to slow down to connect and chat to random strangers. (We really are too busy to shoot the breeze). 😉

But a snowfall in Joburg on Monday, the 10th July 2023, changed all that.

The magic of snow falling in Joburg

With the timely reminder that our world is full of marvel and wonder, a sense of calm and giddy exhilaration took over and you couldn’t help sharing that with others you crossed paths with - at the coffee shop, across the remote working table, at the checkout till, at the fuel station.

A world covered in snow (even a little) is a better place and we all realised we needed to share that.

American poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath, realised this long before me: “I know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.”

Even though it only snowed for the briefest time in Joburg, and even though there were still plenty of Joburgers who still found something to complain about, I am going to land with Lorelai from The Gilmore Girls on this: “The world changes when it snows. It's quiet. Everything softens. Everything's magical when it snows. Everything looks pretty.”



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