Monday, January 10, 2011

Whiter Than Snow

Ahhhh - a snow day!! Living in the South one never knows whether the weatherman 's forecast of snow will come true. Trust me, it snowed. Five or six inches at my house is enough to make everything a winter wonderland and shut down a city. Fortunately, it is not so terribly cold and the power has stayed on - at least for now. After a call from a friend, I was shamed into wrapping up and heading out into the calm of the white morning. I'm so glad I did.
There was no traffic and families were out with sleds and saucers swirling down driveways and sloping streets. Laughter and relaxing smiles were welcoming a Monday where meetings and agendas had been "whited-out" on full calendars. A trek to the grocery on foot became a simple adventure; the spotting of an American Goldfinch sitting on a snowy branch rewarded my walk . My camera never seems to be quite ready or the zoom good enough, but the picture in my mind has been taken.
It's the quiet I love the most. Somehow the blanket of snow muffles even the slightest wind. The birds conserve their chatter and the white of everything calms my spirit. There are no airplanes or leaf blowers, carpool horns or garbage trucks. Even the ringing of the phone becomes a blaring interruption, reminding me that oh, yes, life stirs elsewhere - somewhere. But can it not wait? Can't I just savor these few hours of silence and allow the white to purify and cleanse, offering rest, offering quiet peace?
I think it was Jack London who wrote about it - The White Silence described in the great Yukon Territory while racing a dog sled team to victory:
" Nature has many tricks wherewith she convinces man of his finity--the ceaseless flow of the tides, the fury of the storm, the shock of the earthquake, the long roll of heaven's artillery--but the most tremendous, the most stupefying of all, is the passive phase of the White Silence. All movement ceases, the sky clears, the heavens are as brass; the slightest whisper seems sacrilege, and man becomes timid, affrighted at the sound of his own voice. Sole speck of life journeying across the ghostly wastes of a dead world, he trembles at his audacity, realizes that his is a maggot's life, nothing more. Strange thoughts arise unsummoned, and the mystery of all things strives for utterance. And the fear of death, of God, of the universe, comes over him--the hope of the Resurrection and the Life, the yearning for immortality, the vain striving of the imprisoned essence--it is then, if ever, man walks alone with God."
While we are miles away from the romance of the Yukon Territory, I can still transport myself to the utter feeling of smallness as Nature steps in and transforms my world - quietly, magically, mysteriously - into white space, white silence, white beauty.

A snow day in January becomes like the margin on my word document. As my calendar fills up and the year launches into busyness, Nature quietly takes charge and says, "take a break - quiet now, be still, wait and watch."
And as London so beautifully articulates, we wonder about our smallness and our place in this vast world and our hearts yearn for something that pursues us to the white spaces, leading us further down our life's journey toward wholeness. The Apostle Paul says in Romans that by taking a thoughtful look at creation, we are without excuse for not seeing God's divinity in all of nature - yes, even the pure and spotless snow.

And somewhere I remember the verse of a song:
Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole;
I want Thee forever to live in my soul.
Break down every idol, cast out every foe;
Now wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.