And All To Whom The Snow Came

And All To Whom The Snow Came January 21, 2024

icicles on a snowy day
image via Pixabay


I hope I am never so old that I don’t love the snow.

Last year we barely had any snow at all, and this year has still been far too muddy. Christmas and New Years were a gray mess. The past ten days were promising: a dusting here, a dusting there, and because it was so cold, it piled up. I went for walks in my neighborhood and felt the ice crunch under my feet. And on Thursday night, it really snowed. It snowed until they put the school on a two-hour delay, and it kept on snowing until they canceled school entirely, and then it snowed all day Friday. After awhile we gave up on sweeping the walk and just let it pile up.

Saturday morning, the whole world was brightness and quiet.

I went to the waterfall, for another hike.

I have been there so many times now, but never in deep snow. I am completely unused to hiking in the snow. I still don’t have proper hiking shoes and my purple sneakers would have led to my feet freezing off, so I wore my stumpy snow boots with no arch support. Trudging uphill in the deep drifts was as exhausting as walking three times the distance. My head swam and I stopped to gasp for breath twice. When I got up to those beautiful pines, I was exhausted. I couldn’t do a thing but stare up at the branches, listening to my heart pound.

There are no words for the smell of pines in snow– or rather, there are many words, but none just right. Awake. Alert. Peppermint. Frankincense. Cold, but not in a bad way. Not cold as a metaphor for something that ought to be warm. Just cold.

Down through the pines to the old cabin that isn’t there anymore; there is only the foundation.

I thought the concrete stairs would be dangerous, but they weren’t at all. The snow was just the right temperature to be soft and grippy, like hiking in sand dunes. And then I was at the waterfall.

The waterfall was a palace of ice.

I have never seen such glorious ice.

The font of worn stone where I’d made the Sign of the Cross in the summertime was a pillar of white crystal.

The wall where the water streaked over the shale and made blood-red hieroglyphs in summer was red and white glass.

Every tiny crack in the ceiling of the cavern which had dripped with groundwater in summer, was a sharp stalactite reaching almost to the ground. And under each stalactite was a solid bubble of ice from where it dripped.

In the space where, last summer, I’d walked right under a cataract of glorious water, there was now a curtain of pearly foam, thick as my hand and perfectly still.

Of course I slipped and skidded my way into the cave to explore the stalactites. Of course I stood right under the sharpest ones and looked up, imagining they were a dragon’s fangs about to bite. Of course I clamored over to the pearl waterfall and walked around the back. It made a little round room, a bit bigger than a broom closet, all tiled and wallpapered with even more ice.

All around me, I could hear the streams moving– invisible but still there, glazing the walls of the cavern, adding another layer of glittering glass.

Did I pray? That’s what you’re going to ask.

That’s what I do when I go for my hikes, after all. I talk to God and think about Bible verses out of context and chant things in Latin. I am constantly writing about the things I pray when I hike. It’s a thousand times easier to pray while I hike than it is to pray in church. But a thousand times easier doesn’t mean it’s always possible. Sometimes a thousand times easier just means a thousand steps further in a vain attempt to cross an infinite gulf.

I thought back to what I’d prayed this morning, when I woke up in my usual anxiety and begged God not to hurt me. That I was afraid, because I’d discovered how corrupt and abusive this Church really is, and I didn’t know if I could trust them to tell me the truth about what He expected of me. That I felt in constant danger because I can’t receive the sacraments very often because of the panic attacks, and I didn’t know what He would do to me for that. That I’d failed to fulfill the whole purpose of my existence– because the Catechism said my purpose was to know, love, and serve Him, but I couldn’t even muster an atom of love for him just now, only the fear. Fear and resentment for doing this to me. Fear and anger that I’d been abandoned in Steubenville with such terrible luck for so very long. Fear and shock that my whole corner of the Catholic Church turned out to be nothing but a vicious cult. Fear because I have no idea where to find Him now.

Vidi aquam egredientem de templo, a latere dextro, alleluia: et omnes, ad quos pervenit aqua ista, salvi facti sunt, et dicent, alleluia, alleluia, sang the flowing water, as it always does. I saw water coming from the right side of the temple, alleluia, and all to whom the water came were saved. Alleluia, alleluia.

Not “all who did exactly what they ought were saved.” Just all to whom the water came.

I believe and profess that the Water came to me, once upon a time. I don’t know where the Water is just now.

I trudged back to the parking lot the other way, down beside the stream and across two bridges. And all along the path I heard it flow.

I couldn’t often see it flow, but I heard it. Water makes a different sound when it flows under ice. It’s hollow, and diminished. It sounds as if it’s coming from a long way away, but it’s not. It’s right there, and when the thaw comes you’ll see it move again.

It’s all around, different than you thought, sometimes colder.

In one way, everything hurt so immensely that I wanted to die.

In another– no. No, it didn’t hurt. It was snowing, and I was hiking by the water, and it didn’t hurt at all.





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