Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow Day

The thing that grabs you when you first get up on that first real snow storm of the season is how much quieter snow makes things seem. The ocean of white never once belies what lies ahead. The clarity and rightness of the stuff never once presages the onset of the grimy, salt laden, muck that accumulates on the curbs and driveways in the late spring. It seems like centuries before the last of this stuff is gone and by then everyone in the house is seriously considering homicide as a viable pastime activity.

The quiet of the snow never once gives rise to how long this stuff will be here. How much more difficult it will be to travel, to get the mail, to take out the trash. All of the most mundane things in fact are made more difficult. Snow is nature’s way of telling me that the mundane needs to be changed, needs to be shaken, not stirred. Traditionalists will tell you it’s God’s way of making us ready for the baby Jesus; for the season of good will toward men (and women) and to make us think about things other than taking in the mail or taking out the trash.

Fair enough. But by February, I am counting the days until spring. During those really rough winter seasons, when the snow mixes with dirt and twigs sits in unassuming piles in May or June; when garland and Advent wreaths have long been stashed in the attic; that first burst of warm spring air nearly lifts me off my feet into the sky.

Growing up on Long Island, we had our share of snowstorms, but there was no real sense of Autumn or Spring or even waiting for the quiet of the snow. I can recall many a snow-less winters as a teenager growing up. Still when it did snow, that same quiet overtook a normally noisy Long Island street.

We shared our winter mythologies with folks from the hinterlands: the gently dropping snowflakes were falling angel eyelashes or God’s dandruff. We took to sledding at such legendary places as “Dead Man’s Hill”, and we built our snow tunnels and forts and we engaged in snowball fights that rivaled the assaults on Fallujah in intensity. But living in the shadow of the Big Apple, one’s sense of wellness was never tied into the changing of the seasons. This sense of the immutability of things – that spring follows winter, which is followed by fall only to return to winter. It has become a new imaginary friend: one I need to consider when making plans, one I need to consult when traveling, one that on occasion disappoints, and one that can completely surprise me.

Then there is the anticipation. How appropriate in this season of Advent! Going to bed, anticipating a snow day, the excitement is palpable. It is just like Christmas Eve and in fact foreshadows that same sense of looking forward! What other events mirror this sort of anticipation? A wedding. A birth. It is the most momentous events in my life that give me that rush of anticipation, but the night before an anticipated snow storm recreates this in me.

As I sit here watching the snow simply drop out of the sky, piling up, I know I will need to pull on my winter boots, gloves, hat and scarf trundle out there and start the exercise. I know the shovels are out there waiting for me. I am taking a moment to consider the white, the quiet and the blessing of an unexpected oasis in the desert of helter-skelter activity that can be my life.

It is a snow day and the little child in me wants so much to scream. The joy bubbles over like a teapot. I know that by the end of the season I will be mumbling expletives as I go out again to shovel out my car.

But now, right now, on this first snow, on this unexpected snow day, I am just a child.

M C Biegner


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