Close your eyes and take a moment to walk around in your childhood memories of snow. Can you hear the crunching of the frozen earth beneath your feet? A deep breath brings a twinge of pain that quickly turns to relief as nights of prayers are finally answered for lovers of snow—it’s the first snowy day of the winter.
Mornings have never been easy or cheerful for me, except when anticipating a snow day off of school as a child. On these rare occasions in the southern part of the Midwest, such an event was a treasured experience. I recall racing past the breakfast table to turn on the TV, hoping against all that I held important in my childhood days to see the name of my school district scroll across the bottom of the screen as the newscaster seemed to drone on and on about news that was unimportant to my elementary mind. The leading story for me was school closings. And when it finally appeared, my brother and I would shriek with joy!
Now I live in Wisconsin where snow is a part of most days. Pushing ahead through snowy roads, walking like penguins in icy parking lots, the allure of snow can lose its luster. There are some days, like today, when the snowflakes are almost cartoon-like and I’m transported back in time to feelings of nostalgia; of the excitement that snow used to bring. Staring out the window I can get lost in my own philosophical and theological ponderings of the gift of snow. I find myself reflecting on what snow offers in my spiritual life. Time slows down and the familiar landscape transforms before my eyes. Choosing to walk through the snow mystery enters into my consciousness as I am invited to alertness of each step; moving through space with new awareness. My sure footedness is altered as slick surfaces send a signal of caution.
Snow falling outside Mary of the Angels Chapel at St. Rose Convent in La Crosse, Wisconsin
Yet I am amazed at the beauty that appears as I walk across a sparkling carpet of opaque gems glistening in the filtered light. The holy stillness of a snow-filled world is overwhelming when I make the decision to embrace the experience and not fight against it. Sometimes I think as a culture we have lost the ability to let ourselves sink deeply into the moments of our lives. Tied to phones, appointment books and over-scheduled calendars the gift of snow—sweeping it off our cars, shoveling it down our driveways—can merely be one more thing on our list of accomplishments for the day. The snow becomes something to be conquered and managed rather than experienced. What would happen if on one day you let snow be your focus and teacher? Would greater lessons appear than the ones you planned?
Image courtesy of freeimages.com
Sometimes discernment can be similar to snow. There are times of magic and inspiration: fragments when secrets of the universe open and understanding dawns in your heart and mind. And there are times when you feel like you need to push through; shovel and manage your own discernment as desire to see progress outweighs your ability to sit with the mystery that surrounds you.
Both reflections have their place in discernment—times during which inspiration will lead you to action and others in which shear willpower is required to motivate you forward. Every action—even making the choice not to make a decision—is a decision. Living in a snowy climate is not for the timid of heart nor is the journey of discernment.
This week: If you live in an area of the country in which it’s snowing, take time to watch it fall and then write about your experience. Are there clues for your discernment? If you are living in an area without snow think of a situation where something beyond your control slowed you down or changed your regular routine. How were you present to the situation?