Monday, November 14, 2011

winter






Last night there was a storm. A fierce wind shook the house – toppling several pots and a fledgling Cyprus. It rattled the windows and beat against the doors, howling like an old dog wanting to be let in. Snug in our beds, Dutch and I heard the ruckus and clambered outside to find the patio turned upside down: the wind had sent the watering pots clattering down the stairs and knocked my collection of old birdhouses off the garden table. The umbrella above the sandbox was whipping about like a sailboat, caught in a storm, and Dutch swooped down to rescue it while I rushed to gather the window casements for the dollhouse which were skidding along the clay tile ground, about to fly clean off the balcony.

Then, this morning, we woke up to something remarkable: there was snow on the mountain.

Snow.


For a desert-dweller such as I, few experiences can rival the shock of snow. ‘Shock’ may seem a strong word until one considers that yesterday I swam laps out of doors in 85-degree weather, wore a skirt and sandals to the grocery store, and made ample use of my air conditioner.

We’ve had nearly eight months of summer weather. That’s 32 weeks – roughly 175 days - of relatively uninterrupted heat and sun - of making juice popsicles and drinking iced coffee and generously applying sunscreen before going outside to weed the garden. You wouldn’t be surprised, then, that the very idea of snow sounds almost mythological. A magic powder which falls from the sky, bathing the world in white? Impossible. Cold, clean air which nips at the skin and causes one’s breath to come out in little puffs of smoke? The stuff of fairy tales.

But after raiding the winter closet and winding an hour up the mountain, sure enough, there it was on the ground: snow. I gave the girls a little tutorial on how to wriggle their unruly fingers into these strangely unfamiliar things called, mittens, before we emerged from our cocoon, like the Pevensie children when they first entered Narnia, into a strange new world of startling brightness.

We followed a snowy white path up a hill, haloed by ponderosa pines, their arched limbs locked in a permanent posture of suspense, either from so many years’ exposure to the wind, or the weight of snow. Their spindly needles looked like sea anemones or witch’s fingers, pointing us onward.

The girls romped and stomped ahead of us through snowdrifts, shrieking each time they sank unexpectedly into deep snow. At 53 degrees, I felt as though the very air around me had expanded – all at once I had room to move and breathe and be in! Everything – trees, bushes, logs, land, even people - shone with an unearthly light. I couldn’t quite take in the quiet purity of it all.

Audrey tramped ahead of me. When I asked her to turn around for a picture she sighed and said, “I really can’t because – I’m too busy.” Busy, indeed. Enraptured was more like it. I walked behind her, with Evangeline in my arms and my camera slung over my shoulder, under my own spell. The way the light reflected off the fresh snow was blinding. Icicles, which seemed to drip off the ends of every tree branch, sparkled like diamonds.

It was astonishing. If I had ever witnessed a winter landscape before, I had forgotten the experience - or had only vague memories which were nothing compared to the clarity of the vision before me. It reminded me of the time I walked into a Klimt exhibit at the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art in Rome. Every idea I had formed as to what the real paintings would be like was blown to bits in the presence of the paintings themselves - the replicas I had erected in my mind were shattered by the reality: the flat, two-dimensional images I had emblazoned on my coffee mug and hanging on my dorm room wall were instantly transposed by enormous canvases that glittered like Byzantine mosaics, embedded with precious gems - lapis lazuli, rubies, gold.

Dutch took the girls by the hand and crouched down on the side of the path. "Have you ever tasted snow?" he asked. They shook their heads, incredulous, and we each took samplings of the fresh powder. We savored its sweetness on our tongues, so fresh and strangely nourishing, and giggled uproariously, like a family of criminals, guilty of some great indiscretion.

It was enthralling to imagine what was taking place beneath the snow – the life underground; and as we walked back down the bluff I quietly relished the thought that this world which seemed, in all externals, to be “dead and buried,” was only asleep, crouched in a state of drawn out, if hidden, suspense, waiting to be ‘reborn’ come spring. Spring http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqZLftD3SMI. Our closest approximation to Rebirth.

I love the way God has woven into the fabric of the natural world, hints of the supernatural. The shocking change of seasons are – like golden leaves in fall, and snow in winter— but foreshadowings of the Great Change that will someday take place.

This is odd, in a way, because so much of the time my life seems static – a drawn out suspension of sameness. Or like a revolving door, it is marked by circularity. The world, caught in a hiccup, seems to greet me each morning with the same set of headlines: a sunny sky, a sink full of dishes, children who need food, clothing, and a bath before bed. I, too, feel the same. But for those occasional moments, after a shower, when I am pulling a comb through my wet hair and discover a stark white one, standing on end among the others, waving like a flag to remind me that, indeed, I’m growing old, I don't feel the change.

I don’t feel it; though I know it is happening all the same.

But isn't that the way it is with most changes? Those which turn out to be decisive, which seem to come upon us “like a thief,” have been evolving gradually, in tiny gradations, all the time, so that unless we are really looking for them we don’t notice they are there at all… That’s why the smallest decisions we make can have the greatest impact. They are rolling themselves into something great and unstoppable, like the ball of snow that formed the body of our snowman.

One day, not long from now, the change will burst forth, and I’ll discover that, somehow, in the hours between waking and sleeping, sunrise and car rides, I will have grown old. The tide will have turned – my hair will be all silver. A thought which sends chills through the hearts of many a woman, but not to me. While I certainly don't relish the idea of diminishing capacities, or fading glory, I have a reason to be confident: "for though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4.16).

Indeed, each neat little set of twenty-four hours propels me forward, on the conveyor belt of time, toward that other, more important Change. Soon - so very soon - the night will be over. Dawn will break, Christ will return, and we will all be changed: in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye. The bud will burst forth, the tiny green sprout will thrust its head above the soil: Spring will come. And those things which seemed irrevocably lost, or given over permanently to decay, will suddenly bloom again with a fragrance and beauty so sublime our greatest poets can only hint at it; the life underground will rise again, and be reborn; it will blossom and grow, not only for a season - but forever.

2 comments:

deonna said...

oh how i needed that right now.

Celia Jimenez said...

maranatha, Lord Jesus! the Spirit and the Bride say, "come!!!"