...the whited air hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven...

This afternoon I took a walk down nearby Carver Street, which feels very much like a country road with its houses set back and hidden by the woods. Everything was so quiet because we have had a foot of snow and more of it is falling. The few cars that passed me held tags from states like Colorado and Washington, all southerners home with doors tight shut against the cold. The drivers wave, and we smile at each other conspiratorially, as if to say: "Isn't this wonderful, this secret winter moment." After each car passes, its noise fast disappears, absorbed into the cushion of snow, leaving me to enjoy a peaceful quiet and the empty road.

Trees along the road stretch out their hands toward me offering snowballs ripe for the picking. Small firs in their new white coats bow down before the King of winter. I felt like I should bow down too, and so I do, writing my name into the bank along the road, saying, "I see you" to the snow and the gentle beauty of the woods. The trees stand straight up out of the snow like great sticks in a giant piece of Styrofoam, all the messiness of fallen leaves and roots hidden. Little fat birds twitch around the trunks, staying warm, and leaving tiny triangle footprints in lazy, meandering lines.

When I reach the stand of eight very tall and stout evergreens, I can only think of them as proper officers, standing at attention with their barrel chests pushed out, saluting winter's King with a "Well done Sir!" The wind blows and I hear a thousand twinkles of ice hitting my coat. I realize that my face is very cold and the scarf in front of my mouth is, of course, wet. So I flip up a dry end and cover my nose, remembering the blue balaclava of my youth, and how when it would freeze on my face I knew it was time for drying my socks on the hot radiator and drinking a cup of tea.

A white mist lifts off a tree and floats wraithlike across the road in front of me. I follow it and then I see a flash of color through the woods. Orange and blue coats bounce around at the top of a hill, and I hear booming laughs and silver screeches as the colors swiftly disappear. When I round the corner I expect to see a group of children sledding, and instead I see seven adults throwing themselves down the hill with abandon. I stand watching them running to push each other, sledding into bodies flung down at the bottom, enjoying, reveling. I feel a joyful rush and lift my head up in praise for a day when our hidden child-like hearts are allowed to come out and play. I long for a more simple time when entertainment on a snowy day was all outside and no one would stay home, hidden away from the gift.

Walking back up the road to my house I listen to the crackle of the ice underneath the thin snow left from the snow plough; I plunge through the high banks, smooth mounds like marshmallows along the side of the road. I stand and listen to the heavy still of the woods, covering me like a wool blanket, steadying my heart to love one thing. Crossing the road to walk through the front yard and onto the porch I underestimate the depth of the ditch and slide down, sitting hard into the soft snow. Surprised by the cold wetness pushing suddenly up my back I sit very still. Then I just smile for the joy of it, for the chance to feel it, to let my warm skin under many layers be startled and uncomfortable. Knocking the snow off my boots and brushing off my red pant legs, I prepare to come into the house. Quickly participating in the universal post-snow-walk ritual of shedding wet snowy clothes, I feel suddenly over heated.

Later, in t-shirt and leggings, with my hot tea I stand at my front window, I watch the little Bob-Cat snowplough clear the parking lot of the church across the street for the service tomorrow, and I think: "You don't have to do that, we've already had church." 

The Snowstorm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, 
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air 
Hides hill and woods, the river, and the heaven, 
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end. 
The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet 
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit 
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed 
In a tumultuous privacy of storm. 
Come see the north wind's masonry. 
Out of an unseen quarry evermore 
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer 
Curves his white bastions with projected roof 
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door. 
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work 
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he 
For number or proportion. Mockingly, 
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths; 
A swan-like form invests the hiddden thorn; 
Fills up the famer's lane from wall to wall, 
Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate 
A tapering turret overtops the work. 
And when his hours are numbered, and the world 
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not, 
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art 
To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone, 
Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work, 
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson -1835 


livingpalm said...

Phaedra, this is perfection. Thank you for writing these words. There are different kinds of silence and the one you describe is, as you say, quite holy.

shannon newby said...

Just beautiful. And I would agree- in those moments you are truly in God's sanctuary. This was the perfect thing for me to read today while sipping my coffee and needing inspiration to get back into the studio! Thanks :)

micah said...

oh, phaedra. so so lovely. i am jealous of the snow.

PhaedraJean ArtMachine said...

Thanks everyone. I loved writing this, and I loved the snow. So sad it has left us.