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Saturday, January 7, 2017

What I'm learning in the snow

I'm a flatlander.

I grew up in the hot, dry, flat, sandy midlands of South Carolina. I really don't like to be cold. I've never acclimated to temperatures that regularly drop to the teens, and sometimes even to the single digits. When it hits 3--which it does rarely, I grant, but I've seen it happen--I automatically think: Something's broken. This can't be right.

Snow for us more-Southern Carolinians meant a few flakes swirling in the air, which sent us racing in pajamas and bare feet to the window begging for it to stick. If it was enough to cover a car windshield, you could bet school would be canceled.

We had no sleds. Who could possibly afford such an extravagance that would almost never have that proverbial snowball's chance in you-know-where to ever be used? We also had no hills, so there's that. But there's a picture of my older brother, about age 8, pushing me, about age 4, in a cardboard box on what might have been an inch-and-a-half accumulation, around our flat yard. I wore a red knit hat and mittens, and you would have thought it was an Olympic event and we'd just won gold, given the delight on my face.



Even that dusting of snow meant joy.

So snow has a mystic quality to it that even now, almost exactly 23 years after moving to the highlands, where we do get some snow a couple of times a year, and where we do have hills, the effect hasn't worn off. It still has a majestic, magical quality for me.

It still feels like a gift.

Even today.

I have the day alone. Just me and my dog. My girls are away, and there was a tinge of sadness about that this morning. I didn't bound out of bed like I would have on a snow day with them here. I took a very slow start to the day. It was the dog's begging to go out that pushed me to bundle up, find the boots I don't think I've worn since last March, the closest thing to water-proof gloves that I own that are NOT fine leather, and that cute hat I wear only for times such as these, and head out to play fetch with her in the snow.



But there are things I'm learning on this day, alone in the snow. Things I probably wouldn't have learned if I didn't have the time to do it myself, all the while reflecting in the quiet. Here are a few of them:

--When playing fetch in a deep, dry snow with your faithful, furry companion, a wiffle ball is a much better option than a tennis ball. Though it doesn't go as far, it is much more likely to remain visible near the surface of the snow than a tennis ball, which has some power to disappear completely and simply NOT be unearthable (unsnowable?) until the spring thaw.

--While it is a very good idea to act in advance of the snow to stack some dry firewood in a covered spot near the house so that it's usable and easily accessible in case the power goes out, it is ALSO a very good idea to go ahead and bring the snow shovel up out of storage too. I recommend putting it just inside or just outside the door you'll need to use first. I will remember this next time.

--Had my super-economical and labor-efficient grandfather lived where it snowed, I am sure he would have taught me the wisdom of clearing off the TOP step first, instead of starting at the bottom (which was closest, since I did not think to put the snow shovel near the door last night, and had to go out into the backyard shed to retrieve it). Start at the top and you won't shovel the snow TWICE. (Quite a realization for this Southern girl.)

--68 degrees really can feel too hot sometimes. (Does this mean it is possible that I actually COULD acclimate to enjoy the cold? I still hate to think of the conditions I would have to immerse myself into and the extent of time to so suffer before I would come to call 19 degrees balmy or even refreshing, though.)

--Dogs are good company in the snow. They really are. But they are not as good as kids. So this morning, when the beautiful child who lives across the street rang my doorbell to ask if my children could come out to play, the twang of pain in both our hearts when I told him, "No," was real. And I stood and watched with love deeper than those inches of snow, as his little booted feet made the first marks on the pristine landscape. His footprints are still there, and when I took the dog out, I chose to go out the back only, so that my dear little friend's tracks stay undisturbed as long as possible. Merciful God, pour out your blessings on that boy, all the days of his life. 

--Finally, even the shabbiest and most broken of things become beautiful when the snow arrives. My backyard is nothing special. At least two out of five spindles are loose. Deck flooring planks have dried and curled upward toward the sun that, today, I can't believe does actually beat 90 or more degrees down on us many consecutive days in the summertime. The storage building roof is bumpy with lichens and the lattice around the bottom has long ago fallen into shards in places. The lawn... well, once there was a lawn. A summer of drought and dog and children has left it pocked, sparse, weedy. But today, it's truly gloriously beautiful. The Leyland cyprus at the back border claims Christmas is still with us. The cyprus is right. The blemishes in the lawn are covered completely. And so, I'm reminded, are my own.



"Though your sins are like scarlet," my Redeemer promises me, "they will be white as snow." (Isaiah 1:18)

You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. (Psalm 85:2)

Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (Romans 4:7)

Amen and amen.

Rejoice!