Pining for a Little Snow

I am hoping to change the background photograph on stillvoicing. I try to bring in a new image for each season, something I have shot recently. Often the photograph is from our neighbourhood, or an image from my walk home from work. I especially aim to reflect the season, which has been a bit vexing this year. Winter has been coming in fits and starts. There has been a bit of snow, but not enough has stuck around for long enough to get a decent photo. We have been slipping, too frequently, into that kind of weather one expects in March, my least favourite month. But during my walk to church this morning, the skies opened for a time, and down floated opulent feather like flakes. I was able to make out single snowflakes a few paces in front of me, and so in a strange sort of way, they drew attention to the space between them. For a time, I wasn’t walking down the street so much as through air punctuated with miniature clouds. It was nice to feel winter.

And even though the snow hasn’t consistently abetted my sense of the season, the sun has been of aid. We still have rather short days, although I am already able to note their gradual lengthening. All the same, it is dark enough after supper to light some candles around the house. I find this to be a ritual that reframes the evening, allowing it to proceed under that gentle illumination that speaks a particular kind of hope: soft, quiet, and calming. This, it seems to me, can be the gift of winter: an invitation to be away even while at home.

Last Friday, my wife and I went out for a movie, and upon returning our eldest and her friend popped by for coffee, wondering whether the power had been out earlier that evening in our part of town. We did not return to any flashing lights, so it seems that this was not the case. They reported that it went out where they were and it was dark long enough to break out the candles. They, too, noted something acutely beautiful about a time without power. A candled evening, rather like a snow day, unravels our overly calendared agendas; these forced sabbaticals settle our souls into the realization that we are not in charge.

In the midst of a course I co-taught with a Jewish scholar last semester, on the book of Exodus, we spoke about the Sabbath. While he referenced his regular observance of a day at rest, I relayed my utter failure. He noted that keeping Sabbath is difficult without communal support. It is hard work not to work without spiritual and cultural infrastructures. That struck me as true, and one of our students spoke of her commitment to 24 hours without home-work, etc. over the last few years, noting what I knew to be true: working less sometimes allows us to get more done. So Sabbath is something I have been working toward over the last little while. It is challenging – especially when deadlines loom and I am tempted to do just a little more – but every now and then the power’s failure shuts down computers, or the snow slows the commute, and I am reminded that I need to slow down, we all need to slow down: for the good of our bodies and souls, our planet, and simply to make some time for joy.

I am well aware that many people are quite happy with our relatively snow-free winter. Some would rather be rid of winter altogether, but I am reminded of how my parents and their generation used to speak of winter in terms that brought hibernation to mind. And while we cannot recreate their culture, which made possible something of a Sabbath season, perhaps there is another way into the best of that that mindset. It just might be that a weekly 24 hour break is a good start. Wish me luck.

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6 thoughts on “Pining for a Little Snow

  1. shoreacres says:

    The phrase “snow day” evokes all that you speak of here. Being forced to stay home because of a blizzard was a frustration in many ways, but it also was pure delight. “Snowed in” evokes fires in the fireplace, books, hot chocolate. There’s nothing more delightful than a midnight walk in feet of snow, with the flakes still coming down — and now, the scientists even have proven what we’ve always known: that it is quieter in snow (and fog).

    Of course, being forced to slow down and choosing to slow down are two entirely different things. I’ve been sitting here pondering the possibility that my study may be Sabbath-like. I spent all weekend, day and night, working on my current post, primarily because so much research was needed. And yet, look what those hours offered: silence, solitude, pleasure, satisfaction. What more could we ask of a Sabbath rest?

    • agjorgenson says:

      I’m glad you find a Sabbath in your weekend “work” of study. I recall my Mother speaking of their family’s strict Sunday observance. Studying the bible was definitely allowed, but not much else. I think if it gives life, it is probably good Sabbath material. In my world, what worries me is when the reading, studying, etc that I should be doing during the week gets pushed into the weekend because of meetings, etc. Then I no longer find that to be life giving. As an aside, one of the complicated bits of being a teacher is that a snow day often means trying to figure out what to do about making up for lost time, or choosing to simply let it be. So for me, snow days are a mixed blessings. On an upside, we finally got some snow, and cool weather! And I must say, I’m enjoying it.

      • shoreacres says:

        I still remember what a feeling it was, once I’d left parish ministry, to suddenly experience Sunday as a sabbath. 🙂

      • shoreacres says:

        You know, I’ve been thinking more about this — especially my comment about Sunday and the Sabbath. It would seem reasonable to designate another day of the week for the “day of rest,” but in fact, it’s extremely difficult. I remember how responsibilities would “bleed into” the so-called time off. I suspect that it’s much the same in the academic world.I keep forgetting how unique my employment situation is. I’m both wholly dependent on the weather, and perfectly free to structure my time as I please. No wonder I don’t think about retiring just yet!

  2. Interesting:
    It is hard work not to work without spiritual and cultural infrastructures.

    And these were certainly in place in the time and place that commandment was given. I love how the candles can help you slow down – in the dark of beauty.

    • agjorgenson says:

      Yes, and it wasn’t so very long ago that these infrastructures were part of the make up of North America. For better and for worse, things have changed. Now it seems the onus is on the individual, and it sometimes requires pushing back. As for candles, they are life giving! Electric lights don’t hold a candle to them!!

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