Because of La Nina, or just because God willed it so (Christians admit no conflict between first and secondary causes), children as far south as North Carolina have been able to sample a northern staple of late. I have imagined them often this month, cutting out swaths of cardboard, cozying up to the neighborhood kid with the sled, finding the second life of discarded inner tubes, and then trudging, with a mission, to the highest hill in town.
The school is closed-the brick and mortar edifice, that is. Classes will be held today in the original one-room schoolhouse, the one fashioned not with human hands, the one God made long before anyone ever thought of herding kids into rigid rows and bolting them in desks, having checked their frogs and rabbit's feet at the door.
Math will be measuring the difference of distance between Billy's toboggan and Vinny's saucer. Science will be stopping to examine a six-pointed crystalline miracle of engineering caught on the mitten. Health class will be experienced instead of learned by rote. Social Studies will be pondering the strange phenomenon of strangers, who never smile as they pass you on the street all year, now waving like long lost friends or comrades in arms.
They say God whispers in our pleasures and shouts in our pain, and maybe this is true, but he is audible enough to me this day, as Aimee, Calvin, and I stake out our course on the summit of Glenside Elementary ridge. I had told Reverend Min when he called to check on me recently that life has simplified itself considerably: "I will live for Him," I said. Min replied, "It's not so much even living for Him, as living in His blessings." It was not a correction but I stood corrected; the pastor's accent was in a better place than mine: What do we render to God, after all? Only trust in Him, and He sends showers of blessings before and behind. Does it get any better than this?
If there is a downside to snow it is also its upside, a grace disguised. Did we say to ourselves, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, ... carry on business and make money"? Ought we not to have said instead, "If it is the Lord's will ... "? Accept God's holiday and stay home. Motorists on the parking lot that is I-95, repent!
I pointed my diminutive companions to the different moods of snow and sky, the pitched tent of the sun, the bridegroom now coming forth from his pavilion "like a champion rejoicing to run his course." I am afraid they will miss it, even one hue or lengthening shadow. Of course they won't. It will seep in by osmosis and live in dormant memory there, till awakened by a whiff of air one January day in middle age when their own kids tug at coats, breaking some reverie. Right now it's down to serious business: Man your positions, secure the rope, get feet on the steering crossbar, coax the most speed from the hill.
Sledding is the great democratizer. On the slopes no one knows your name, IQ, or proficiency with Windows 98-and no one cares. And those of us for whom the ski havens of the Rockies or even the Poconos are out of reach are not denied the least sensation. How full can you fill a cup, after all? Do the olfactory glands, the retina, the pores distinguish between the expensive Aspen snow and the homegrown kind? And come to think of it, have I not noticed in my own life only the most tenuous correlation between money and enjoyment? The serendipitous rapture of a sublime piece of music on the radio on a drive to the market has betimes surpassed the concert hall.
There is snow because God cannot be contained in one season alone-or one anything alone. He is a lion, a lamb, an eagle. He is shepherd and door and vine. He is the warmth and new life of spring, the rich fruition of summer, the gentle warning of fall, and the promissory slumber of winter. Even Oscar Wilde found the Christ child, at least momentarily, in a snowy landscape, in his children's book, The Selfish Giant, and appended this commentary to the ogre's transformation: "He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep." And if snow was the antagonist in C.S. Lewis's Narnia stories, it is only because winter would not give way to spring.