I Remember Observation Poetry rag-pickings Signs and Signifiers

Through the White World

Island of residual

It was only for a few days. The immediate sensory world became a continuum of white and grey. A familiar world made strange.  Almost all colour, leached from the field of vision and imagination.




By coincidence, Han Kang’s The White Book is on the reading pile. Other texts from the white world  call from the bookshelf: Peter Davidson’s The Idea of North; Nancy Campbell’s Disko Bay; Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams; the ‘white day’ in Sophie Calle’s ‘Chromatic Diet’ from Double Game.

Watching the swirling snow outside, an incongruous memory of sitting on a baking hot bus travelling from London to Barcelona. I was reading Kenneth White’s travels in Labrador recounted in The Blue Road. I read blue but felt the white world. As if holding a cooling block of ice in my hands as the Spanish sun burnt through the window.

The Idea of White

Encounters at the White Edge

White Dreams

White Food

White in the White World


Mika, our cat, sits on my knee. A rush of grey flecked, white fur becomes a tactile landscape of frozen ice, glaciers and crevasses. The white world.

Then, almost as suddenly as it arrived, the thaw began. More and more of the temporary, subnivean world revealing itself each day. Colour returning. Fresh, vibrant, as if newly painted. The last ice crystals, sprinkled on living worlds of green.

Islands of residual reverse. White dissolves.

To see a new history of colour in the silent stories of the old weathered walls.





The eternal cycles continue …


Now playing: Thomas Köner – Nuuk

4 replies on “Through the White World”

Hello Murdo
Reading this, and contemplating the photos, I remembered something I read recently in the book ‘Lapwing & Fox’, a series of conversations between John Berger and John Christie. At one point they refer to a visit to an exhibition of the work of Giacometti, and there displayed a quote by the artist, a response to a question about why his later paintings seemed to avoid colour and tended towards grey. According to Berger and Christie: “The essence of Giacometti’s reply was that grey, in fact, contained all colours and for him signifies life itself”.

Thanks Alan – what a great story. I must admit, I did enjoy the immersion in the white and grey world for the best part of a week. It was also a joy to almost see colour anew when the thaw did come.

Just to clarify one point, as I didn’t proofread my message before posting. It should have said “and seeing there displayed a quote…”. Apologies if I gave you the idea that Berger and Christie snuck in and posted the quote themselves!

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