It snowed today! As has happened more than once since we've lived in Memphis, the snow didn't come until after the daffodils had started blooming, but it did come.
This morning for me did not start well. I had a long drive out to Colliervile, and most of the way there I was behind a huge truck that was losing plastic bags all along the highway. My guess is that it played some part in the recycling chain of events, but even if it had a good purpose, I was irked to see bag after bag escaping in the wind and flying out to trash up the landscape, confuse the wildlife (I imagine), and take who knows how long to finally disintegrate. Those plastic bags had me thinking about the fall, the effects of sin, how even our efforts to do what's right sometimes mess things up.
And it wasn't even 9am.
At 9, I attended a prayer service where Psalm 51 was read. Another reminder of sin and its effects, but a stronger reminder of God's grace which, while it doesn't do away with all the consequences, can give us clean hearts, fresh joy, and a right spirit.
Then a long talk with a spiritual mentor which among other things led to memories of some very dark times in my past when joy seemed relegated to the category of memory, and separately resulted in his giving me a book, The Cruelty of Heresy (by C. Fitzsimmons Allison). So over lunch I read about docetism and ebionism and thought about the current state of things in the church, how many distorted beliefs there are, even when people start out with good hearts. How much we need each other in order to understand and practice truth. Heavy fare for lunch.
Then a piano lesson, a welcome lightness in the day. Especially because while sitting at the piano, we looked up at one point and saw huge flakes of snow falling into the backyard. By the end of the lesson, it had accumulated on my car so that I had to sweep it all off to be able to leave.
Oh! Snow! We all know that it is water in a different form, with a scientific explanation related to temperature and timing . . . But it is also magic. And this snow was especially magic, because we live in Memphis, and because it looked as if we wouldn't have any snow this year, and because I was at the moment listening to a tape about C.S. Lewis and Narnia and the importance of the imagination and fairy tales.
And because this morning's reading had included "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice."
In Memphis when snow or ice appear in the forecast, people tend to panic. They shut down businesses early. They raid the grocery stores. I did go to get some milk, and I went to the bank (informed by a sign saying it would close two hours early) to deposit some money. My teller talked incessantly, afraid to drive home and unable to reach her father to come and get her. (She had apparently never driven in snow before!)
So with all this panic and the streets starting to freeze and clog up with cars going 5 mph, I decided to do the wise thing. I drove to the Botanic Garden, parked my car, and went for a quick walk. Before they too shut down early.
I say the wise thing because to me, the most foolish thing is to have all this wonderful white magic snow falling down, more than we have had in years here, and to spend the whole time in a house or on a street.
For the twenty minutes of my walk, I felt more alive than I had all day. No one else was outside. The snow muffled the sounds of traffic that you can usually hear even in the Garden. Quiet surrounded me. Trees were transformed, black branches beautiful, wearing white like a fur coat. Red berries peeked out from heavy white snow on dark green leaves. Tiny bird tracks were the only prints I saw most of the time, with some larger goose prints in places.
As far as I could see, nature welcomed the snow and simply let it be. Beauty sang its silent song, accented by occasional hoppings among the bushes, honking among the geese who huddled together with snow on their backs, too.
I thought of the plastic bags on the sides of the highway and rejoiced that at least for a while they were covered in beautiful snow.
I thought of the dark time in my life and rejoiced that I could feel joy again.
I thought of the dark periods in church history, and the darkness in current events-- the war, the Mohammed cartoons, the crazy way this world seems bent on doing itself in. And rejoiced that even with all that, this magic snow could come and create this breathtaking beauty.
I wish I could share all the thoughts in my mind from the Lewis interview I was listening to, and how it all merged together with this fairy tale land. But I can't remember it all. I just know it was magic. And better than magic, because grounded in the truth that God's love and grace really can and do wash us and make us whiter than snow, and that ultimately love and grace and goodness and beauty will overcome all the platic bags and wars and sadness.
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
(Photo once again from St. Columba retreat center. The sweetest bird feeder I've ever seen. And very soon I'll write about the man who used to feed the birds there.)