Today, the snow fell in a whisper. All morning, afternoon and into evening it covered everything with its grace. The woods and the house, the front steps and the road, all shrouded in gentleness.
Walking in it, I felt as though a psalm was being sung over me.
I pulled Sparrow behind in her sled. We made smooth tracks in the fresh snow. I swelled with gratitude realizing our humble sled tracks might be the only ones the road saw that day. No cars and no trucks, just the shuffling boot prints of a trudging mama, the scampering paw prints of an elated blood hound and the long, sleek lines of the sled.
The gallant aspens that tower along the road’s edge wore their new garments stoically. In each season, they are breathtaking. But in winter, they are majestic and even triumphant in their splendor. I wish daily to be among them and we often walk simply to encounter them. Beneath them, I am so insignificant and that, for unknown reasons, is incredibly comforting. They seem to breathe new life on me so that whatever worry I have vanishes.
But I digress. We passed under the trees and I was calmed. We approached a large hill and Sparrow, who thrills at any chance to sled, begged me to let her sled down once we’d reached the top. I obliged her.
I was surprised by how much pleasure I derived from her single descent down the middle of our gravel road. Watching, it felt as though the whole world was holding its breath for her. It was a relatively small journey but it seemed to stretch on forever, her bright pink coat slipping further and further from me and my control and my protection over her. One part of me wanted to rejoice and one part could not help but weep.
And it was just a sled ride down a hill. What will I do when this metaphor I’ve found becomes my reality?
We walked the rest of the way home, red-cheeked and dreaming of cocoa. Clarence the wonder dog rocketed past us, following his brilliant nose down some rabbit trail of furry goodness. A raven flew over head, its wings making the same wooshing sound Sparrow’s heart does when I lay my head on her sleeping chest.
At home, over the dreamed-about cocoa, Sparrow proclaimed “Let’s sled every day for the rest of our lives, mama!” “We can’t, Sparrow,” said I to her quickly diminishing smile. She followed with the predictable why and I went on to explain how spring comes and snow melts and how gravel roads are less than ideal for sledding. “Oh,” was her resolute and disappointed reply.
It struck me that she simply doesn’t understand the concept of fleeting. Things that she loves are permanent because she loves them and because, if they are happening now, they are always happening and will always happen. Grandpa is always swimming laps in the pool, no matter the season. The box of chocolates in the cupboard never runs out. There’s a dance at the town hall every weekend of every year, in perpetuity. Clothes she wore when she was 6 months still fit. (“They DO fit, mama. See?” as she crams her 4-year old body into a newborn onesie.) And mama’s tears over the loss of a friend are silly to her because “Hannah will be back soon, mama.” As if Hannah had just gone to the store to get us some ice cream.
Everything about reality is fleeting. Nothing gold can stay, as the famous Frost wrote. The bad and the good, the beautiful and the hard to swallow–it’s all in a state of departure. So are we, for that matter. Dust with a temporary name.
So what gives? How do I go on living with joy when everything around me is vanishing, including myself? Including my beautiful daughter down the long, snowy hill?
Deuteronomy 30:3-6 reads: God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. (The Message)
That’s what gives. And that’s what we wait expectantly for. He will give it all back, and more. In the meantime, His psalms are being sung over us every moment of every lingering day, we just have to quiet ourselves long enough to hear their subtle tune.