Anyone who know me knows that I am not a fan of winter. And I am especially NOT a member of the snow fan club. So I guess this winter, the joke is on me.
My dislike for snow apparently started early in life, according to an old family story. At the tender age of 2, it is told that I was desperate to accompany my teenage brother out onto the grounds of our farm when he went to shovel a path to the chicken house during one particularly bad Missouri blizzard. My mother lovingly wrapped me in every piece of warm clothing that she could find, zipped up my parka, and sent me out to meet my brother. As the story goes, I took one step out onto the front porch of our farmhouse, then another, uttered the phrase “Me frooo (translation: I’m through), turned on my heel and went back inside to the fireplace. My first adventure in the winter wonderland was, according to history, very short.
I remember winters in Kansas City as horrible affairs…we never really got a lot of snow, but the wind howled across the prairie and when there was precipitation (usually ice), the power went off and I spent days huddled in the living room next to the fireplace, wrapped in a big flowered down comforter, reading book after book by the firelight with my faithful dog Toto at my side (yes, I really did have a dog named Toto — I lived just across the state line from Kansas, so please, what would you expect?).
This may sound like a peaceful and serene memory, but it is anything but. We had one of those circa 1960’s fireplaces that served both the family room and the living room. And while I hid in the living room (the never-used living room, of course), the things going on at the other side of the fire, in the family room, were anything but peaceful and serene. One more strike against winter and snow.
So, I managed to live a good portion of my adult life avoiding snow, cold, ice — I truly thought that I had managed to put all that behind me by moving to Washington, DC. Then, came the blizzard of 1996. I began that storm, on the New Jersey Turnpike, trying to drive back from a concert in New York City. I ended up stuck in a Comfort Inn in Perryville, MD, and even after I managed to get us back to Capitol Hill, storm after storm, layer of ice upon layer of ice, made it a miserable time and closed DC completely, much as the Blizzard of 2010 is doing right now.
But one thing and one thing only caused me to leave my safe warm apartment — and that, was my voice lesson. You see, my voice teacher at the time, also my good friend, lived just two blocks away. And funny thing, everyone else cancelled their lessons, so he had lots of time. So once again, I spent hours dressing myself against the elements, and set out to wander up East Capitol Street. I walked slowly, inch by inch across the frozen ground, while snow lovers sped by me on cross-country skies. But this time, I didn’t turn back when I faced the snow– I wasn’t through. I would get there. And, I did, but I was so traumatized! I still really hated the snow. It was an impediment to my plans, a punishment, an obstacle, but this time, a surmountable one.
And so I sit here in my study as the second blizzard in 4 days blows Washington hither and thither, watching the snow pile up yet again and anticipating the opportunity to burn massive amounts of calories by shoveling everything clear ONCE AGAIN, and I find that, I have finally come to peace with snow and all it brings, and can see its beauty and yes, its blessing. Yes, a blessing.
There are some that might say that all this snow is just the apocalypse that Washington deserves, but, being the pantheist/relational theist that I am (you can consult Burton Z. Cooper and John S. McClure’s Claiming Theology in the Pulpit if you really need to know what I’m talking about), I’m pretty sure that, at least, in my own view of the divine and the world and their relationship, this snow storm is a gift.
A gift? Yes, a gift. Today I had the gift of watching the neighborhood and the city that I love blanketed in an amazing cloud of white. I observed the beauty of God’s creation undisturbed by busy-ness, in the snow, in the wind, and in the excited exuberance of my puppy as she discovered the fun of running fearlessly in snow tunnels twice her size in the park. I had the gift of a warm house, wonderful company, safety, and good and plentiful food to eat. I had the gift of time to think and time to pray and time to write and time to sing something that I just wanted to sing. And over these past days, and I’m sure tomorrow too, I have enjoyed the gift of seeing how strong I have become, both emotionally and physically (who says women have no upper body strength, HAH!), as I surrender to the snow, its reality, and as I re-shovel the walk and the driveway I had just cleared out yesterday.
And the biggest gift of all? The realization that I have all of those things each and every day (well, I don’t have snow to shovel every day), if I will just remember to notice. And for this, and for the snow which let me see ever more clearly, I give thanks.