What the Snow Reveals…

It’s a new year and I’m thinking about snow. And not because it is actually snowing (intermittently) after several days of cold too brittle for freshly formed flakes. No, I’m thinking about snow because I like the way it covers and hides the Uglies: roadside litter, dead leaves, brown grass, brown everything. It creates a pristine white blanket that sparkles fresh and clean. A new year often carries that same sense of clean promise; I’m not fond of looking at last year’s Uglies.

It’s a new year and I’m thinking about snow because it not only hides and cleans, it reveals. The Uglies may not be currently visible, but my backyard is hardly a glistening untouched rendition of white Christmas dreamscapes. No, my backyard and beyond are riddled with evidence of lives lived. Thoroughfares, interchanges, exit ramps, fence-crossings, and assorted detours carved out by pointy-hoofed deer and moose would befuddle even the most skilled cartographer. A private frontage road runs along a section of the marsh berm, thumped out by some rabbit road crew. Teeny-tiny paths imprinted by a gazillion teeny-tiny mini-rodent toes form scurrying connections between shrubs and bulrushes. A meandering single track across the frozen marsh signals that a lone fox is on a hunger-prowl.

I’m ever so grateful that I do occasionally see some of the critters that inhabit my backyard and beyond, but the snow reveals how little I actually know about the nature of their presence, their comings and goings, their patterns of movement and hunting or foraging. Snow even reveals where they burrow for shelter or crater their beds.

I’m thinking about snow as a new year begins because I wonder what my last year would look like if it was etched out like the intersecting freeways that have pockmarked and crumpled the pristine covering of snow around my home. What would be my most worn pathways – worry? grief? love? Where did I burrow most often – in work? in front of a screen? in prayer? If someone was observing my ‘tracks’, what would be revealed about my priorities, my faith, my fears, my weaknesses, my integrity?

As we step into the pristine newness of this year and each day it contains, may we give careful thought to the paths for our feet. May we pause at this crossroad of time to look and ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and choose to walk in it. *

May I live in such a way that my comings and goings reveal a life surrendered to the Giver of life, Creator of snow, Sustainer of the millions of sunrises that we group into days and months and years.

* from Pr. 4:26 & Jer. 6:16

Unfolding

The geese come first. A few random stragglers glide in early, braving late snow and still-frozen lakes, followed by gaggles more, gathering in fields like concert-goers waiting for the show to begin.  

Soon saucy, raucous gulls flash black-tipped white against spring-blue skies.  

The ice begins to recede from puddles, ponds, and lakes, and the ducks quack their way back. The marsh behind my house becomes a constant cacophony of waterfowl-speak.  

As if all previous arrivals were simply the opening act, the majestic and stately swan gracefully soars in, its deep, bass trumpet resonating across the bulrushes.

Robins are the next to trill their way north, filling the early morning sky with their song long before I actually see the familiar red breast. 

One calm evening, the frogs, almost always unseen, add their gurgly, bubbly, throaty croaking, and I wonder again at their ability to survive beneath the ice and cold of winter.

Leaves bud and spread green, first just a light frosting dabbed on tree tops, then a full-blown bright new green that embraces the landscape. And the wind, alternating warm and cold, has something new to play with. Leaves flutter a melody no longer silenced by winter.

After a brief pause, the red-winged blackbirds fill the song spaces with their riffs and rills, spreading wings and strutting red and gold epaulets as they stake out their territory in the marsh.  

Grackles, elegant heads shimmering green-purple-blue in the spring sun, chirp conversationally as they forage for spring food.  

And then, it comes….high in the air, the unmistakable winnowing sound of the snipe. I don’t know why, but I find something comforting about the return of the snipes.

Spring is still unfolding… terns will soon be be performing arial acrobatics around the gulls. The warblers have yet to bring their cheery song and constant flitting to the willows in the back yard. Yellow-headed blackbirds always trail behind the red-wings, as do the orioles with their crystalline call and brilliant orange plumage. Clever little marsh wren hasn’t returned to stuff my birdhouses with sticks – yet. Quiet, unassuming and shy sora will probably return completely unnoticed.

I like tracking the unfolding of spring. In the midst of a world that seems increasingly unpredictable, where so much of what could be counted on as true and right is being upended and distorted, it anchors my soul to be reminded through the gradual process of spring renewal that God’s order still supersedes man’s designs.  

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lam. 3:22-24)

If the unfolding of spring is so glorious, how much more the unfolding of the plan of God for our world – for my life.  

Yes, I will wait for Him.