by Jennifer on December 11, 2009

photo credit: Lilya Wagner

photo credit: Lilya Wagner

One minute it isn’t snowing, and the next it is.

Elle, still in her pajamas, throws open the front door and calls to us. Come look, it’s snowing! All week long, she had said it was going to snow on Saturday and was sure of it. A girl in her class had told her so, and I – in my adult certainty that it was too early for snow and not cold enough – had dismissed her prediction with an Oh, really? Wouldn’t that be fun? I didn’t check the forecast, and I sure as hell didn’t buy them any boots. (That’ll show me.)

We all stand in it, the three of us, faces upturned, eyes wide and blinking against the clumps of snow that catch in our lashes. Except for a harrowing drive through a blizzard two years ago, on our way home to Arizona from Missouri, it’s been six years since we’ve watched the snow come down.

The wonder.

The kids are beside themselves, hastily bundled into coats and hats and gloves and excitement. Me, I’m quiet. Except for feeding their excitement and laughing at their goofy awe, I become something still as I watch everything go white and clean.

In all ways, I let the snow fall on me as it falls on everything else, let it cover me over. Let it fall onto the parts of me that lie like soil plowed deep and left exposed, all the stones (even the biggest) turned now, pulled from places dark and deep.

It’s easy enough, when something comes apart, to put the blame on another person, where you’re sure it belongs. And maybe it even does, or most of it. It’s a harder thing to take your share (my share) of the responsibility and carry it until you know the weight of it. Until you know how much hurt you caused, too.

The snow falls and I stand in it, taking it for what it feels like. Blessing, benediction, benevolence.

The thing is, I’m not sure I deserve these mercies. The root of a fault can be buried deep, and so I’ve been working, digging with bare hands to pull to the surface and toss mine aside where they can’t survive. The dirty little secret of all that lies beneath is that the darkness feeds the root and lets it take hold. But the light of day always takes measure, given the chance. The sun dries and bleaches. The wind carries away. Exposed, the things that could tangle you up inside lose their power.

And whether something rests above the ground, or grows beneath the surface, some things never change. A compass will read the same in the bright of summer or the deep of winter.

North is north, true is true.

And as long as a life goes on, as long as there’s another day, there are more chances to get my bearings and set myself on a path to something better. I owe myself that, I owe that to my children, I owe it to all the people I love. To be as constant as that, as true.

So what I’ve had to make myself accept is that even if I don’t deserve this absolution, I can’t afford not to accept it, either. None of us can. Some lessons, when it’s time to learn them, take all you’ve got . Take more than you were ever willing to give up, if you’d thought it through, if you’d taken a hard look at things before instead of after. If you’d made the right choice, instead of  having to make up for the wrong one.

I stand in the snow, think all of this, and feel grateful for a snow that’s come at the end of a hard week, at the end of some hard years.

I stand in the snow and try to find the words for the need it fills in me. Something a friend says to me explains it, “Winter does that, strips everything bare to make it new again, and the snow comes to cover everything over and make it all clean.” The words start to sink in.  “And you haven’t had a winter in a very long time.” Yes.

One minute it isn’t snowing, and the next it is.


I had never heard this song until a couple of days ago, and it knocked me over with how much it’s what I feel right now.

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