I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snows I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day. . . and it was on that day I made the Snowman.
The discovery of a grey hair when you are brushing out your whiskers of a morning—first fallen flake of the coming snows of age—is a disagreeable thing. . . . So are flying twinges of gout, shortness of breath on the hill-side, the fact that even the moderate use of your friend's wines at dinner upsets you. These things are disagreeable because they tell you that you are no longer young—that you have passed through youth, are now in middle age, and faring onward to the shadows in which, somewhere, a grave is hid.
Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting, and modern. The country is grey and brown and white in trees, snows and skies of laughter always diminishing, less funny not just darker, not just grey. It may be the coldest day of the year, what does he think of that? I mean, what do I? And if I do, perhaps I am myself again.
Still lie the sheltering snows, undimmed and white; And reigns the winter's pregnant silence still; No sign of spring, save that the catkins fill, And willow stems grow daily red and bright. These are days when ancients held a rite Of expiation for the old year's ill, And prayer to purify the new year's will.
I meditate for the last time on this mountain that is bare, though others all around are white with snow. Like the bare peak of the koan, this one is not different from myself. I know this mountain because I am this mountain, I can feel it breathing at this moment, as its grass tops stray against the snows. If the snow leopard should leap from the rock above and manifest itself before me - S-A-A-O! - then in that moment of pure fright, out of my wits, I might truly perceive it, and be free.