Having grown up in the South, I developed a view of snow that probably borders on reverence. Any Southerners out there know what I’m talking about? Snow has always been this magical, gentle, quiet, glorious, wonderland that I have often longed for more than anything. (Plus, any remote threat of snow meant no school in the South, so there’s that too…) And when it does snow in the South, you have to make the most of it because you know it won’t last long. You’ve got an hour or two of solid sledding on your cardboard box or plastic lid from a bin (this worked really well in college) in the patchy, thin, wetness that Southerners believe is real snow.
Well, let me tell you, folks… I REALLY know all about snow now (Go ahead and laugh at me, native Northern/Midwestern folk!). After living in Chicagoland for 5 years, and now living in Maine for about 6 months, I’m going to own the fact that I have an understanding of sorts of the white expanse outside my door. In fact, this seems like a reasonable time to point out that I am currently in the midst of what appears to be record breaking snowfall in Maine (since January 24th alone, I’ve witnessed over 40 inches of snowfall.)
One thing I’ve noticed in the past two weeks, is that it has snowed A LOT (see aforementioned statistic). And I don’t mean to be Captain Obvious about it, but it’s kind of surreal. And it’s made even more surreal to me by the fact that it has somehow become my new normal. There is quite literally waist deep snow in my backyard, it it’s kind of hard to remember what life was like without all the extra challenges that snow brings.
And in the past two weeks, when there has been only a day or two between several snowstorms that brought at least a foot or so of snow each (if not far more, right Juno?), I have felt a confusing mix of being overwhelmed and being resigned. Some days, it feels like the snow will never end. I wonder if it’s so heavy on my roof that it’s eventually going to cave in on top of me. Physically when I am in this cold snowiness, there is a literal numbness once the pain from the cold sets in and I begin to lose feeling in my extremities. And then, there’s a break from snowfall for about 24 hours, and it feels like I hardly have time to come up for air before the snow starts pouring down again.
Ironically, all this snow has been pouring down around me at a time when I’ve also felt a bit overwhelmed and numb and stuck under the heavy weight of life. I can’t help but smile right now just thinking about how sometimes these seasons of weather can mirror our own seasons of life. Here are a few things that this metaphor reminded me, about the snow and life, once I opened my eyes and heart to it:
1… In the midst of storms, I often need the anchoring support of others.
I wake up every morning earlier and earlier, sometimes spending an hour outside simply to uncover my car in the snow and then to attempt to leave my driveway (the ultimate challenge, since it is a snow covered hill). More often than I would like, I cannot for the life of me get up that hill. My wheels can't get traction on the slippery slope. And I am learning how to reach out for help. I am learning that I really and truly need people. I am learning that I can hold on to my stubbornness all day long, but that doesn't (always) get me out of my driveway. Sometimes, the snow is simply too deep. Honestly, without the help of others, I very often wouldn't make it to work each day. And that's okay. In this season of deep snow, I just need help. It makes sense. And in the middle of life's storms, help makes sense, too. It's a lovely (yet daunting) thing to reach up to others, and it's even lovelier to feel them reach down to me, supporting me with grace and care.
2… It’s hard to see what’s ahead when so much is in front of your face.
In the midst of a blizzard, it can be a bit dangerous to go out into it. When the snow is swirling around you, all you see is white. It’s easy to get lost, and even easier to be terrified by the fact that you can’t see. It’s times like this that I can become paralyzed in fear. I want to know that the ground is still there under my feet. I want to see if there is anything good and safe and beautiful in front of me. But when I’m scared, I really can’t look past the whiteness that surrounds me. In the midst of the chaos, I can’t see or even imagine that the storm will soon fade and that I may be left with something beautiful and pure and refining when the storm is over. Yet, no storm, in snow or in life, can last forever. The sun will always rise, and the season will thaw. From the cold winter will come the new warmth and life of spring. Next time I’m feeling frozen in place and can’t see in front of me, I hope I can remind myself that there is hope.
3… Beauty and peace exist, even in the eye of a storm, if I can reach for the warmth of gratitude.
Not only is there hope that awaits on the other side of the storm, but it can even be found within the storm. I don't want to be so frozen in the fear and pain that I become numb to the beauty around me… the beauty that exists even in the hassle and the struggle. Because when I take time to appreciate and to truly feel grateful, I find the inner warmth that wards off the numbness and clears the pain, if even for a moment. Gratitude is like a mitten for the heart. When I can look at the storm swirling around my head, and see the crystalline snowflakes and hear the quietness of it all and feel the sacredness of my stillness in the storm, I can find joy.
And once the storm has cleared, maybe I can even find that long lost piece of myself that saw the world, and especially snow, as an adventure. And then I'll hop on my improvised cardboard box sled and ride over the hill into the valley.