The thermometer reaches for 0 degrees (Fahrenheit). A whispering wind yields to a low hung sun glowing in a white-blue sky. Thick glistening snow floods all with white. Minnesota in January…nothing new here…beauty yes, but we whine nonetheless. It is cold, afterall, really cold. Even the weatherman says it is nasty, even dangerous, out there.
This day’s winter wonderland is for viewing only. Today there will be no play, no work, no walk, no nothing out there. We don our warmest clothing and outer wear if we must step into it. Then we tuck our chin into our chest, venture out and scurry to the next warm spot. It is kinda funny to watch, but then none of us laugh, for we’re all doin’ it. We’re all weathering the weather the best we know how. It ain’t always pretty, but in contrast those who yield to style in this weather soon discover the chuckles of others. Not many can pull off style, can cater to outer appearances and actually stay warm when severe weather is about. Pretense gets the boot for all but the most prideful…and we all know pride comes before a fall (on the ice? :-)
On the flip side, though, Minnesotans are a hardy sort. For the most part we’re descendents of Scandinavian immigrants–people of the cold, people of snow and ice. We like it here, it is genetically wired in us to embrace all the seasons, even winter. As soon as snow falls and ice thickens, fish house villages populate our lakes; snowmobiles flit here, there and everywhere; cross-country skiers and sledding children dot the landscape; snowboarders and downhill skiers find their thrills on the slopes. We build snow forts, throw snowballs…for many of us snow elicits play, and play we do.
For some, though, and I speak for myself, winter beckons to cocoon. Homes become hermitages: books get read, prayers said, puzzles populate table tops. Coffee is always on, wool sweaters and fuzzy slippers warm souls top to bottom. Inner life comes to life when outer life lays still. The frenetic rhythms of summer slow to a stop in winter and I, at least this year, am in sync with winter’s stillness. Not much calls my name, not much demands my time. I sit dormant, as it were, waiting for glimmers of spring, glimmers of life. Spiritually, I sit at the feet of Jesus and gaze up into His eyes. I have chosen this, yes, as He has called for it. Being supersedes doing, at least for now. Waiting overrides jumping the starting gate, even as I’m chomping at the bit.
There is one bird who sings this time of year in our neighborhood. Even today, among the coldest of days, it sings. It is a lonely long single call followed by a lower long single call (Black Capped Chickadee song). It is not a happy bird call, and no chatty chirping among its neighbors does it start. No, it sings a forlorn solo, a solitary bird calling through the wind and cold. Maybe it sings to remind me that even in cold stillness life still is, or that when we’re quiet and still, solitary voices can be heard. Yes, maybe I need stillness in order to hear a Voice that sings in the silence…