I am not a huge fan of snow. Sure, as a kid I got pretty excited about it because of school being cancelled and because I live in The South where snow is a novelty. As a healthcare worker I learned to resent it a little because snow days didn’t apply to me, they just made the commute more treacherous. With the most recent two weekends of snow though, I’m learning to appreciate it again.
I walked outside a few nights ago with big flakes coming down, and until then I’d never appreciated the magic of snow falling before. There’s something about the sound of snow falling, or rather the absence of sound. It’s a heavy silence, almost holy and reverent, as if all of creation is holding its breath. Like living in a pregnant pause. There was no breeze, no tap of sleet or ice mixed in, just the gentle descent of nearly weightless flakes landing on every exposed surface.
Standing there that night, I was captivated by how peaceful it felt to witness what was happening. Every particle falling from the sky seemed so tiny and insignificant, yet the world was transformed by them. I had this overwhelming urge to find a fresh, untouched spot and lay down on my back watching the greens and browns and grays of nature morph into white, my eyes wide open, my arms stretched wide. In general, I tend to find life overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, and my thoughts are always racing with endless worst-case scenarios. My mind constantly scrambles to unravel all the what ifs and contingency plans to figure out a means of control, but watching the snow fall, there was only stillness.
I wondered at how many times in my life I’ve woken up in the morning to see piles of snow and thought it was beautiful and enjoyed making snow cream or going sledding or watching the kids play until their fingers and toes were numb and their cheeks were red and their smiles wide, and never thought about the process. How each flake builds on another to change the world as we know it from ordinary to ethereal. How I focus so much on results but so little on process. And I wondered how much different my life might be if I could just stop striving for results so much and just appreciate the process.
“Purge me with hyssop, and I will be clean,” the Psalmist writes, “Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” That’s what I was thinking about as I stood in the silence wearing my pajamas and Ugg slippers, snow falling all around me. I thought about how all the moments in my life have been unique, tiny flakes, taken for granted, sometimes resented, sometimes celebrated, all adding up to transformation. In the day to day experience it seems like nothing is happening at all. I’m so distracted by the end result that I forget to be present and marvel at the moments as they pass.
The end result of my dad’s transplant surgery was immediate new life, but all the moments leading up to it were teaching us how much we had to lose. They were teaching us to hold onto hope and fight through the pain because it was worth it.
The end result of grieving my mom was being able to embrace who she was and celebrate it and remember every single day we had with her, but the process was teaching me how to stand and persevere, how to never take the people I love for granted, how to stand alongside other people when their pain threatens to overwhelm them.
The life transformed is amazing to behold, but choosing to analyze the process is a privilege. It’s a choice. I may be powerless to stop certain changes in my life from happening, but I can make the decision to squeeze every drop of meaning from every single second, and I can teach my kids to do the same.
Mary Oliver wrote a poem called “First Snow” where she describes how the snow calls us back to “why, how, whence such beauty and what the meaning,” and she writes, “Trees glitter like castles of ribbons, the broad fields smolder with light, a passing creekbed lies heaped with shining hills; and though the questions that have assailed us all day remain— not a single answer has been found— walking out now into the silence and the light under the trees, and through the fields feels like one.” Or for me, maybe just stepping into the driveway right outside the garage.
As the whole world holds its breath and the snowflakes fall.