Snow When It is White

Chesterton tirelessly noted that we could look at a thing a millions times and never see what it truly is. How incredible and terrible would a snowy day be if seen through new eyes? Everything drowned in white, the ground as bright as the sun, everything stopped, everything muffled, as if the world were a bad-tempered child cleverly subdued and restrained with a fluffy white blanket. Indeed, when it snows our broken world receives a virginal purity it never deserved; it is graced with a covering of romance. Trees receive wedding dresses. Suburban houses – for the only time in their depressed lives – take on a new significance, even a sense of home. Our very-modern creations are buried under a gentle and powerful gift from heaven, and if we are lucky, are rendered incapacitated.

And everywhere people, children we never knew existed, old couples we thought had died years ago, coming out of their caves and homes, seeming to know the rituals and dogmas of a Snowy Day as innately as they do a Holy Day, and usually better. Children – in a solemn reverence unmatched – make snow angels and snowmen, imitating the Creator, snowballs and snow forts; idols and altars to the day. Adults shovel their walks, moving only the snow in their way, no more and no less, admiring the rest, carving pathways in the unexpected covering, trying to navigate a normal life in the midst of such a wonderful surprise. The whole religion of the snow day stands in stark contradiction to the secular description of man as mere animal. An animal may take it upon itself to build a snow-house out of necessity or a snowball on accident, but never a snowman for enjoyment or a snow angel on purpose. No animal would dare honor something as spontaneous as a snow day with something as ritualized as ritual.

If the snow is deep, then rich and poor alike are affected; neither the small red pickup truck nor the gas-guzzling suburban can make it out of the driveway. As we the people come stumbling, blinking into the overpowering whiteness all around us, there is a sudden and startling recognition of solidarity. This mighty covering covers the mighty and the lowly, and everyone must work to free themselves and their neighbors. Republicans and Democrats tolerate each other, Catholics and Calvinists lay down their arms, if only to clear a path or uncover a car. And, when the heavens turn into uniform grey, the human soul must find it’s own adventure, and gentlemen who haven’t left the computer for weeks go for a walk. Waking to such whiteness is fantastic; especially if one is snowed in. I imagine – with only a little delusion – that broken families look up, a little embarrassed to find that the universe has conspired to keep them all together.

Praise God for snow, unexpected grace, covering forgiveness! We ourselves are glorified; cheeks flush, eyes shine, girls my age look even prettier than they already manage to be. And it is here, in close, I mention the greatest part about Snowy Days; everyone bows. People over shovels full of snow, trees with limbs sagging under freezing weight, cars pressed down to the road; everyone bows, even if only to keep such an unexpected blessing out of their eyes.

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