The Snow Statue
Sun, 15 Sep 2019
The first time you wake up to an overnight snowfall in the trenches you can't help being overwhelmed by the sight. The beauty, the purity, so out of place here, clean white snow, covering the mud and the blood and the shit and the death.
Of course, snow means cold, which means death, and there's more than enough of that already. Snow will test your boots and your socks and your gloves and the thaw will flood the trenches worse than most rains.
But still. Beauty is rare here. Ha, I lie, beauty is bloody well extinct here, so when you wake up to crisp, clear, clean, bright snow everywhere it lifts your spirits, for a while at least, until the cold kicks in.
Some of the men made a snowman, a fat ball of snow with a smaller ball on top for a head. It ended up with a German helmet on its head and being used for target practice. Even for snowmen, life here is like life nowhere else in the world.
The next night I really felt the cold, and once you feel it there's no stopping it, it's all-consuming. I slept fitfully, fearing death by the cold more than I'd ever feared a bullet or a bomb.
But when I woke up it was a beautiful day, the sun was out, glistening in the fresh-fallen snow, like it was two seasons at once.
It is rare for beauty to last unto a second day here, unheard of in fact, but as I crept out from my dugout I was was greeted by a sight yet more beautiful than the sun and the clean, bright snow. A deer. Someone had built a deer out of the snow. No, not built, created, it was a snow sculpture, nothing crude like the fat blob of snow that passed for a snowman, this was a work of art. The deer looked confused, baffled, as if wondering what it was doing here.
I realised I wasn't alone. There were soon a dozen men or more just standing there, gawping at the snow sculpture. Who built it, we never found out. Nobody ever admitted to it, perhaps they were dead already, or moved on, or simply happy to watch our reactions anonymously, an artist who left his work unsigned.
The beauty didn't last long. Less than an hour after I woke there was a barrage of shell-fire and when I crawled back out from cover the deer had gone, either to a direct hit or broken apart by the fallout of a nearby bomb.
It was destined to be. The trenches aren't a place for beauty or innocence. But just the memory of it warms me, cheers me. It makes me think that maybe there is hope, for if someone can create something that beautiful somewhere this terrible, anything is possible.