It snowed here. Not like it did where my beloved east coast family resides. But still a hearty bit of snow, enough to re-blanket what warmish days and wind had thrown off. The trees sagged with the weight, but not with a stance of weariness as they do when it snows in late April or May. Today, their branched-shoulders sagged as with a pleasurable duty, like a papa’s shoulders do when he’s carrying his daughter on them.
The chickens, let out of their coop in the morning, walked around a bit timidly at first, like women in stilettos and evenings gowns navigating a muddy, puddle-filled parking lot. But they quickly regained their winter feet, stomping around and pecking in the snow for specks of grain that fell out of the trough when I fed them.
The cats scampered. The blood hound rampaged. And Sparrow and I walked. Rather, I pulled her in a sled and I walked. She sang some, complained a little bit, noticed birds on treetops that I swear a person with bincolars couldn’t have spotted and talked about all manner of things, most of which I didn’t catch due to the oppressive sound of a sled being dragged down the road. She was probably thinking about hot chocolate or her new friend Quinlee or maybe about the treat she was going to try and convince me she deserved since she was “so good on the walk, Mama.”
I, on the other hand, was thinking about color or, more accurately, the lack of it. Winter in Cook County is drab, even when a shimmering drape of new snow covers it. The colors are all muted, understated, even uncolored in a way. Grays, browns, blacks and white. It’s not ugly, but it lacks spontaneity.
My eyes, by this time of year, start to not see. On walks and drives and saunters out to gather eggs or firewood, I find myself staring at the details of the world around me but not actually seeing them. Everything about the landscape starts to look the same, painted in the same shades. It’s like looking at Rorschach test after Rorschach test and knowing it’s worth it to see something but deciding it’s just too much work. “Shape”, I say to the air. “Another shape. And another shape. That shape’s moving, but it’s still just a shape. Yep, shape again.” My eyes and my brain ache with apathy.
Can I compare the winter landscape to a ballad by Bob Dylan? Because I’m going to. The winter landscape is like a ballad by Bob Dylan. It goes on and on, save an occasional change in volume and inflection; the entire thing looks exactly the same from start to finish.
I’m not saying I don’t like the song. Just that it gets a little old sometimes and I find myself not listening.
Oh winter, I don’t want to not see you! You deserve to be noticed. To be appreciated for what your lack offers. Remember, oh winter-weary heart of mine, the Mountain Ash. How its brilliant red berries are rarely noticed in summer and fall, at least by me. How I drive by at least 50 trees on my way to town and in the vivid rainbow of summer and autumn, don’t even take note. But in the winter time! I see nothing but the Mountain Ash, I nearly swerve off the road for notice of them. Winter makes those berries something of pure radiance. Winter, in its plainness, lends a helping hand to the Mountain Ash.
When we returned from walking, Sparrow played around in the yard and I was inspired to take some pictures of the drabness.
I had just taken this last one when I looked up and saw Sparrow, who I’d kind of forgotten. There she was, this absolute explosion of color, of life, of joy. Against a backdrop of sameness, of monochrome nothingness, she was like a beacon. She’s worn these winter clothes a thousands times if she’s worn them once. I see them every time we get dressed in the morning, every time she gets out of the car, every time we walk, every time I pick them up off the entryway floor, every time I hang them up by the fire to dry. And I’ve seen her even more, a hundred thousand times: her face, her eyes, her nose. And, suddenly, she, in her winter coat and pants and hat, was so incredible, so beautiful. I was seeing her for the very first time. And I couldn’t take my eyes off her.
I snapped a few pictures and then I just stared. I marveled. I awed. And I relished, in winter. As with the Mountain Ash, seeing her there made me so grateful for winter’s lacking. For its humility. Because isn’t winter humility in the truest sense, making itself less, so the other can be more?
And in this way, I am just now beginning to realize as I write this, Christ is like winter. Humble beyond measure, making Himself nothing: scorned and over-looked, born in a filthy barn, misunderstood and murdered, all on our behalf. So that we could be beautiful, so that we could be righteous, so that we could be holy.
He wore the drab garments of our imperfect flesh and bore the ugly shades of our sin on his blameless body so that we could wear the garment of Eternal Glory. So that our Creator, our Father, our God, could look upon us and see perfection, see brilliant, magnificent color. So that He could look on us and absolutely marvel.