Beneath the Snow

The thing I liked about snow was:

It was tricky.

Very, very tricky.

It cascades over the landscapes. Washes it to look clean. Gives it a sparkling, new feeling those first few days that it sits. For as long as it remains untainted by dirt, it looks pure. White.

Like the world has been given a fresh start.

But…

If you step in the snow, you find that that’s not true.

It’s not true at all.

Hiding.

That’s what the snow does.

It lays about, hiding the world beneath. You think that things don’t crawl under the snow? That there’s not an entire world down there?

You’re mistaken.

Sorely mistaken.

I take a step, one that’s parallel to the last one I took. Sink my foot against the ground.

And yet—

My foot doesn’t stop where it ought to. It doesn’t stop at level with my other foot, with where I think the ground is.

It sinks further.

All the way to my knee, I sink.

Plunging into snow.

My breath burns through my throat as I take another step, winter’s jagged claws digging into my throat, desperate not to leave me.

What a silly thing though.

How foolish.

I keep stepping, keep progressing. Moving forward, undeterred by winter’s bite in the back of my inhales and exhales. I keep moving because I know:

I’m close.

Very close.

They say you can only find it when the snow sinks you like this. Can only hope to stumble upon it in the fresh winter. You can only find a gateway when you’re traipsing beneath snow-laden branches, dodging globs of snow as it weighs on the forest. Cracking old branches, taking down the elderly and weak trees. You can only find the entrance when the ponds are frozen, and the fish must sleep.

When the sun weakens at the sight of winter’s hold.

And when the sky grays and glows.

And when you are truly, sincerely caught in winter’s throes.

That’s when you can find Tír na nÓg.

Land of promise.

Land of youth.

Land of delight.

Tír na nÓg is many things, but one thing it is not is:

Easy to find.

You must be bitterly cold. Truly desperate. Far out in the woods, sifting through the snow. In a place where you wouldn’t find Tír na nÓg, because that’s actually impossible. No, instead:

Tír na nÓg catches you.

When you are bitterly cold, desperate to take any promise, ready for a life different than this—when you are ready to give up on anything and everything—only then will it come to your call. Only then will it answer.

Tír na nÓg will find you.

It will find you.

What lies there, in Tír na nÓg, you ask? Why is it such a wondrous place? Why are people so desperate to go there? Why on earth would I torture myself like this, just to get a glimpse of it?

Well, if I told you, they’d kill me.

But.

I will say:

It is worth the winter.

I take another step, and I sink even further. Feel hands grasp my soles. My feet slipping, sinking into another place. A warmer place.

A better time.

I don’t take another step after that, because I know:

I am in Tír na nÓg’s hold.

Land of mystery, delight. Land of magic.

Land of adventure.

Land of faeries.

My foot slips through first, dragging me along with it.

And I go willingly.

Glad to be rid of the falsehoods of winter. The idea that there is a clean slate, an empty canvas.

Glad to be welcomed, instead, to the world beneath the snow.

The magic in Tír na nÓg’s hold.

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