Suffering March

March. How will I
ever make peace
with this
month well named:
raging and pillaging?

Not so many
days ago a tyrant, a
broadside wind
flipped over a
tractor trailer while
side swiping a few
days of spring seduction:
green pushing against the snow.

Does this
month
plot, and
scheme, sharpening
its talons and assessing
the holes in our armour.

Amore, it seems, is not
on this month’s mind,
and yet, and yet –
we hold this to be the month
when Word was fleshed in womb and so
was made to suffer misery, and beauty too.

Steeling for Snow

I shoveled the walk
yesterday, leaving my snow
blower to rest, warming
up to its summer
hibernation. I settled
on the old fashioned scrape
of metal against concrete –
content with the push and pull
of these two, their force
felt in the vibration of
the wooden handle,
occupying my hands.

This steel shovel, so much heavier than its burden,
is a solid reminder of the days before plastic
when we lived a little closer to the earth.

The snow blower was
bought to hedge my
bets against heart attacks
and such. It is much
appreciated and yet some
days the nearly silent to and fro
of shovel sits well with
the serene snow about to go –
even though it only just arrived,
from far too far for me to
put it back from whence
it came.

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Dear friends, this was written early Sunday morning just as the ice storm fell upon us. Shortly thereafter we lost our power and internet both. Power came back late Sunday, and we still await restoration of internet service. I managed to sneak this on via my daughter’s cell phone. So here it is, late but possibly made better by its accompanying wishes for a blessed holiday on this Christmas Eve.

_____________

The threat of having weather intrude inside is equally frightful. It seems, however, that something of this is occurring in southern Ontario. A severe ice storm warning is in effect for our region and beyond (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/major-ice-storm-hits-ontario-1.2472721). Power has already fallen in parts of the province as lines weighed down with ice collapsed under the strain of wind. People are advised to stock their shelves. Some years ago, a significant population of ours and Quebec were powerless for a significant chunk of time.
For someone who grew up in Alberta, I am always struck by the beauty and absurdity of ice storms. They were rare, very rare in my recollection. A quarter of an inch of ice so solid that it makes scraping the car window nigh impossible was not a part of my childhood experience, while it is of my children’s. This rugged beauty makes me imagine that there is something jarring about nature’s beauty.
There is a fundamental beauty in the power of nature. It reminds us that we are not in charge. It reminds us that we need to look to one another for support in facing the onslaught of forces beyond our control. It reminds us that God alone can promise a future, can redeem a past, can imbue my present with meaning and grace. Nature invites me to look up, but also to look around me.
I write this early, very early Sunday morning. The trees are bearing down under the ice and wind. I am safe in my little brick house. The Theilman family built this house so well 60 some years ago that we can hardly hear the wind gusts outside. My gas fireplace comforts me. All seems well inside, but the beauty outside is harsh in this longest night of the year. Earth may be deep in sleep but she is tossing and turning, thrashing in these sheets of white. I alone am awake in my house, which seems fitting since there is a kind of a solitude that comes with this weather, a solitude that is simultaneously a worry and a relief. It is a worry because the possibility of harm in ice storms is real. People die in these sorts of storms. One cannot under-estimate the power of nature, and its seemingly capricious nature. On the other hand, nature sometimes seems to force Sabbath on us. With its arrival comes a forced facing up to our humanity, to God’s majesty, and to the earth’s incomprehensibility.
Christians and Jews will recall that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” from Psalm 24:1. The weather , too, is the Lord’s and the beauty therein. If this weather has you hunkering down, use this time to recall the gift of community and the beauty of a world made strange by icicles that cross- etch creation, by sheets of silver refracting the subdued sun. Take some time, since this is time given you to recall that we are not God, individually nor collectively. And while an ice storm is not, in my humble opinion, an “act of God” as so many disclaimers in insurance policies purport, it surely Is used by God to awaken a chastened sense of self and a revive some sense of community. If you are someone under the assault of the storm on this Sunday, takes some time to soak in the beauty of it all and to witness the poetry of an earth that proposes that today a comma, a pause, a full stop might be in order.

Snowing Down

Yesterday my wife announced “ Tomorrow we’re going to buy a snow blower.”

Small things can be bigger than they first appear, and something the size of a snow blower portends even more significant changes than one might imagine. This is clear from the rationale attending this pronouncement: “We aren’t getting any younger.” Of course, this has been true for quite a few years; and so this particular proclamation yesterday meant something more than it has before.

All week long I’ve been whining about a sore shoulder. We have had a few weeks of trying weather. For those familiar with south-western Ontario, this will not come as news. The snow we’ve received over the last few weeks has been unusually dense. Not much air, if any, is found between the needles of the ‘flakes’ in my yard. Shoveling has become a bit more onerous.

I should mention that this isn’t the first time the idea of a snow blower has been broached. Two years ago we had a winter with astounding amounts of snow, and I suggested we might buy a snow blower for my fiftieth birthday, which came and went during a green winter. This year has been a bit different – although most certainly not our worst. Still, my wife sees me shoveling and, I suspect, is mindful of my family’s heart history. A snow blower is as much a preventative caution as a prescriptive cure for the odd ache.

I appreciate my wife’s concern for my health, and suspect that a snow blower might not be a bad idea at all. This, not only because it will hopefully relieve my shoulder of its pain and my wife of my complaints, but also because it will serve as a regular reminder that this journey from cradle to grave has important markers that invite me , invite you to stop and take stock of where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. This is never a bad thing.

So, today in church, I will take a moment to give thanks for the many years that have been a rich gift to me. I will take a moment to savor being beside someone whose life intersected mine at just the right time. I will take a moment to ponder how I can live fruitfully into future moments fully alive in each day given me. I hope your day gives you occasion to do what you need to do to pause, to ponder and to anticipate the gifts of life and the gift of new life.