Zahrah Nasir A cold grey luminescence filters through a gap in the curtains, the unmistakable, special kind of muffled silence announcing that the world outside has performed its annual disappearing act. There is no horizon, no mountains, no forest, no anything other than a swirling blizzard of snow and, it goes without saying, no electricity and no telephone either which is par for the course. Nature has switched into protective mode: some people luxuriate in the blessed joy at the pristine cleanliness of it all, altering life to fit the circumstances whilst others, unprepared, unforgiving, unable to adapt to sudden isolation erupt in an unproductive tizzy of angry frustration. Reaching for mobiles while they still contain some charge, they vent their ire on whoever is unfortunate enough to be on duty in the local electricity company office before moving on to tongue lash the telephone people, demanding, in loudly obstreperous tones that services be restored immediately, if not sooner, without stopping to consider that roads are possibly closed, that, if at all passable, they are dangerous to the extreme, that linemen actually put their lives at risk when attempting to rectify faults in sub-arctic conditions and that, abusing people doesnt get the job done any faster. Personally, I quite enjoy being snowed in, cut off, isolated in mountain splendour but, unlike some, I am usually prepared. Lots of firewood for the stove, boxes of candles, cupboards and freezer full of food, emergency medical kit up to date, plenty of warm clothing and bedding, books to curl up with and handwritten notes to be compiled by emergency light until it runs down when things to do by candle light, stringing peanuts for the birds, polishing shoes, even polishing the brasses take over and, when all possible tasks are completed, daydreams rule the roost plus refreshing spells of complete hibernation. Daylight hours are equally full: Wood to be sawn and chopped, chunks of ice to be melted if the water pipes are frozen, snow to shovel, soup to conjure up, snowmen to build, birds to watch, dogs to play with and whatever else takes my fancy. The pristine white, frozen wilderness, cocoons me in its revitalising embrace and I submitwillingly. Arent you frightened I am asked. Frightened of what? I reply. Of being cut off. Of being so far away from everything? It must be awful. On the contrary.I relish this time of year and plan for it weeks in advance. Some people indulge themselves in expensive, specially organised 'retreats, often in overseas locations, where they voluntarily isolate themselves from all that they know in an effort at tuning themselves 'in to their own inner beings, tuning 'out echoes of their over-stressed 'real existences until they return 'home. I stay right where I am, in my own comfortable surroundings and wait for 'retreat to come to me Being snowbound, happily snowbound, hinges, to a large degree, on being able to live with only yourself for company, of being able to look yourself in the eye honestly, of being content to be who you are, what you are and where you are and, possibly to an equal degree, being able to accept your own, suddenly reduced world, for exactly what it is. Naturally, you also need the human comforts of adequate warmth and subsistence which is where meticulous forward planning comes in: the carefully compiled and fulfilled shopping lists come October or November, the change of mental gear in early December and a few special, eked out treats, a huge bar of chocolate, a luxurious block of strong cheese and the like for times of indulgence. When the power lines are down, the phone dead and 'daily news happening on some distant planet, the relief, surprisingly, can be enormous. The 'not knowing a wonderful gift. The 'not seeing pictorial evidence of mayhem bringing a renewed understanding of how desensitised the human race has become. Knowing that tourists are flocking to Murree and the Galiat in general to experience 'snowfall conjures up images of children laughing, inadequately dressed adults complaining at the cold but, above all, of chaotic road conditions; traffic impossibly snarled when inexperienced drivers slide off the road, slide in to each other, angrily clamber out of their vehicles to yell and scream at anyone else in the vicinity because they have been stupid enough to get stuck and of 'locals earning an easy buck by volunteering to extricate them from their predicament. That world is outside of my own for the time being and I want no part of it thank you Being 'out of touch means having time to expose your own, inner feelings, to the cold light of day, to examine them at uninterrupted leisure, to throw out the negatives, develop the positives and move towards spiritual renewal, eventually, when the thaw comes, communications are re-established and the world re-enters orbit, to emerge from your chrysalis, unfurl your wings and fly. The writer is a Murree-based freelance columnist.