We have been snowbound here in the Chicago area for the last three months, since early November. Now, being snowbound is different than being housebound. We can get out and get around. In between snowfalls the roads cease to be icy—but the layer of white that covers our yards has been slowly growing since before Christmas without a single thaw.
“How much snow do you think we have?” my husband asked one morning as we were pulling the car out of the garage. We both estimated that there was at least 12 inches sitting on the flowerpots, which winter over in the garden. In the snow banks where the plows dump, the excess snow is higher, of course—three to six feet high. We are living in a white-on-white world.
For many northerners this presents difficulties. Even though we’ve had a fair share of sunny days, a series of overcast days, another storm that dumps three to six inches can make people weary of winter—it’s just hard to drag yourself through the routine, donning warm extra-thick stockings, a sturdy pair of boots with good treads on the soles, layers of sweaters and wool vests and down-filled jackets, and gloves—how many pairs of gloves do we go through getting in and out of cars? (My goal this winter has been to not lose a single pair.)
Then sunshine-deficiency syndromes take over, vitamin D starvations, which set off physical lethargies that for some folk, tumble into depression. Skin dries in the heated homes, even with digital thermostats automatically turning down the temperatures when we’re working or when we’re sleeping. A warming spell (39 degrees today after weeks of single-digit readings) tempts us with the possibility—maybe we’re done with the worst of it!—but no, in our heart of hearts, we suspect we probably have a few good snowstorms still to come.
Yesterday, one of those bright sunny days that glisten on the white, where the sunrises and sunsets are exquisite, I looked out the back window to see if we needed more seed in the feeders. There were six bright-crimson cardinals on the ground, on the feeders, flying in and out of the bushes. Red birds are beautiful in every season, but in winter, on the snow, when the days have been dull and are for a moment bright and the months ahead are still long—they are breathtaking. One bird would have been enough—but six!
The prize-winning poet Mary Oliver has written this in her book Red Bird:
firing up the landscape
as nothing else could.
I guess my responsibility for getting through the winter is to luxuriate in the moments of beauty that “fire up the landscape” of these long months. Next time six red birds come to the feeders, I will stop what I am doing, put on my boots and scarf and down-filled jacket, walk quietly to the back-yard bench, slowly sweep off the 12 inches of snow and sit. I will breathe in the fluttering molecules which must be speeding through the air with all those wingtips beating. I will put my head back and take the deepest sigh I can possibly take and thank Providence that the cardinals, symbols of flying hope, come to my feeder and wing through my spaces. Without snow I would not know this moment.
perhaps because the winter is so long …
or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens—
I am grateful …
I hope I have another chance.
Other projects involving Karen Mains right now:
Karen Mains heads the spiritual-mentoring ministry Hungry Souls (www.hungrysouls.org), which is offering an eight-month teleconference training for Wannabe (Better) Writers. This mentor-writing course begins Thursday, February 18. The curriculum will concentrate on Personal Memoir Writing and will meet twice a month by phone for an hour each session. For more details, fees, assignments, the curriculum and how to enroll, go to http://www.hungrysouls.org/events.php. You must register by January 31. Inquires can be made at email@example.com.
Hungry Souls is also offering the new “Listen to My Life Mapping” Listening Group as well as two 3-Day silent retreats for 2010.
Karen is also developing a two-day training event for those interested in becoming Silent Retreat leaders, and the Global Bag Project is developing a template for Bag Parties in a Box.
Karen Mains is also continuing to write new content for this, her Christian blog, “Gettin’ Thru the Day.”
About Karen Mains:
Karen Mains and her husband, David, have been in religious communications for decades—radio and television and print publication. The are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy, Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. David has been working on a manuscript titled Revelation for My Grandchildren, and they are just beginning to brainstorm if this should be made into a fourth Tales book, Tales of the Revelation.