THERE'S SNOW AND THEN THERE'S SNOW. WE GOT the second kind last month-that school-closing, SUV-shaming, every-mother's-child-delighting storm we were deprived of last winter. We were more than fairly compensated: "five oxen for a stolen ox, four sheep for a sheep" (Exodus 22:1).
In an instantaneous mental shift of gears, I chuck the day's work and find shovels. These will be my unsuspected weapons against the encroaching agents of suburban isolation: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down."
I will pluck my way first to the "new" neighbors I forgot to greet with pecan rolls-it's been a year, at least-and hope they have not cleared the steps and sidewalk yet. Should I knock on the door and introduce myself, letting these hibernators, still nameless, know whose handiwork this is? I consider, and then walk away: The bondsman of the Lord does not let "the left hand know what the right hand is doing"(Matthew 6:3).
Others have appeared now, a rag-tag army wielding each his homely implement to desecrate the artistry of heaven. I try to take it in before it is too late, the sculptures inviting conjecture that Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather have dusted off their wands from Sleeping Beauty fame and kindled anew their competition: We see unearthly topiary where the shrubs stood yesterday, curvaceous swells and depressions round the trunks of pines, perfect pompadours topping marooned cars, an impossibly tall meringue of snow astride a picket fence, windswept dunes like folds in the train of Queen Esther's Persian wedding gown.
Once again in history, "the earth takes shape like clay under a seal; its features stand out like those of a garment" (Job 38:14).
"Natural revelation" goes a long way with me. The Creator leaves His calling card in the nooks and crannies, which none but anointed eyes may read (Romans 1). My heart momentarily is panged for the impoverishment of those who labor by my side, who have no One to thank-the soul must be slightly sickened when gratitude has no addressee. The circle of delight, for them, is not complete. Joy is occluded at the point of giving birth.
"He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him" (John 1:11).
People will be friendlier today, a snowstorm psychology that nobody understands but everyone expects, a 24-hour brotherhood of man that sparks a hundred conversations between folks who have lived doors down from each other for 30 years and never spoken.
My kitten, a smudge in the unrelieved whiteness, mews atop a crest just out of reach, terrified at the loss of terra firma, licking the strange white crystals off one paw and then another. I had tossed her out the door this morning, as usual, and she had gone willingly, unawares. She will not come now though I implore with outstretched arms, for fear of sinking in the dust, which is too powdery for snowman dreams, by dint of 20-degree temperatures. I perform the daring rescue in shin-high boots reinforced inadequately with "tall" kitchen trash bags.
The snowplow has forgotten our street. Through narrow trenches carved like moats before every man's castle, I make my way to the end of this desolate outpost, and on a mischievous impulse walk with impunity down the median line of Keswick Avenue, regressing for an hour to a time when children played kick-the-can in Bowery streets, and man still seemed to stand a chance in the turf wars with Henry Ford's machine.
The baker, the dry cleaner, Ralph's barbershop, are abandoned. I imagine I am one of the hardy few surviving The Big One we learned to fear in Soeur Ange Marie's third grade: We hid under our school desks and pictured something called "fall-out" drizzling on stranded cars, perhaps a white powder not unlike this present draping.
I am brought to remembrance of the riddles God put to Job, among which: "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?" (38:22-23).
In this time of trouble, Lord, we thank Thee for this respite of the present day, the confirmations of Your sovereignty and love.