Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


Snow Sight

A full moon gleams over the fresh snow tonight. My hands are still stiff, my face reddened by cold as I write, for I took a twilit walk beneath that golden face. All was still in the creamy, blue dusk. So, so still, and all was somehow also near. The pines and firs, always stately, remote, bent closer than usual, gentled and kindled as if their thick snow cloaks bore a charm to coax them awake. The quiet was heightened, the damp air and moonlit snow made the wide world feel like a small room. I walked, watching. Snow always changes things. It bears the power to quiet all it touches, but also to make it strange. Snow hides the usual shape of things, alters the shape of the skyline so that we stand in a different world than the one before the storm. I felt that change in my own sight over the last two days. Just as the storm began yesterday, a moment of rare and utter stillness came to me with the onslaught of the snow. The view it gave me of myself and soul has altered the mental horizons amidst which I usually stand. It came just as I arrived home in the afternoon, just as the air filled with a fury of whiteness, and I stood at the kitchen counter peeling apples for dinner. I was alone in the house and hadn't yet turned on the lights. The big kitchen window, let in an eerie wash of pearled, chill light. The snow brightness rested like a touch on my hands and face, a touch that bid me halt, midstep. And in the midst of a thousand things to do and think, for some reason, I did.

Summoned by the light, I felt my consciousness withdraw from the small dark rooms of my worries, the heat of my many thoughts, and gather itself fully into my eyes, my fingers, my ears. It was as if I landed wholly within my own body for the first time in days, no part of me distracted or absent because of the mental and virtual worlds in which I work. My glance was caught by the apple in my hands. I held it up, saw the rusty, roughened skin with its pattern of gold worked by the sun and frost of countless days, and it seemed a thing of such beauty I could barely breathe. I looked at my own fingers, holding it, at the small hands I often dismiss  as odd attached to my tall self. Hard-used, ignored, yet I felt it almost a miracle to possess such members, able to cook, to pound out music on my old piano, to write, to gently love, to reach toward my desire.

I've been reading a book on contemplation, bit by bit, drip by drop when I've had time in the last few weeks. The author of it thinks that we were all meant to live with contemplative, wondering sight. That the "felt presence of God," something we crave, something commonly absent, has much to do with the rush and pragmatism of our age. Sometimes, I read things like that and in a disembodied, mental way, I see the point. And I did. And in that same detached, cerebral way, with the roar of a hurried day surging in my thought, I prayed to regain whatever wonder I had lost.

But in my snowlit moment I saw, not just the point of a good idea, but the breathless transformation that comes when the whole world is made fresh. I saw as if I had been blind and now was free. From that moment forward, I slowed myself down. I've spent the last two days breathing slower, and slower, and slower, living in that quiet, calming light out my window. My breath is almost still enough again that it could catch in wonder. I've cooked a lot (wintry weather provokes hunger), and done it in a watchfulness and joy I haven't known in months. I've read, slowly. I've lingered to talk with my brother when he was home on his short breaks.

I've done the same things I had to do anyway, but I've done them with eyes somehow cleansed, with a mind stilled and gathered fully into the present moment as I live it. The joy of it is so great, and so fragile, I am afraid to lose it. I am afraid that it will melt just like the snow dripping away from the pines. And yet, it has begun something within me, planted a seed of snow sight, perhaps, at core of my heart. If I choose to cultivate this quiet, this wonder, it might grow into a light that fills and forms all my sight. A light that reveals the daily things, the small and humble things that cram this world, as the sacred gifts they are.


Sarah Clarkson5 Comments