The strangest thing happened this winter: it snowed and snowed, weeks on end. I hadn’t seen snow like that since my childhood. Temperatures dipped well beneath freezing. Icicles hung from the eaves of my house; they started no bigger than hairpins, but grew as thick and as long as stalactites, as menacing as scimitars. The roof got to snow-laden I feared its collapse, and every day sometimes several times a day, I had to shovel my driveway. Mountainous piles accumulated at the edge of my yard. My street narrowed to a single lane, a trench gouged out by snow trucks. Cars navigated down it slowly and cautiously, tires often gnashing and spinning.
This isn’t supposed to happen, not where I live. The paper from Victoria, daily, emblazoned startled and startling news about another record broken, and some days it didn’t come at all — the paper, that is — because of those record-breaking conditions.
Christmas Eve the sky opened up like an ancient sorrow and let loose a blizzard that didn’t let up till early morning. The snow was so deep and heavy that my makeshift carport, constructed from metal poles and heavy tarps and lashed down with an elaborate spiderweb of rope, collapsed. I discovered it Christmas morning when I let the dog out. The mangled structure trapped my car beneath it. It took me two hours to dig the car out, banged up like someone had pounded one side with a truncheon. The damage was almost artistic, the top of car door’s rim fluted the way my mother used to pinch the edge of a pie crust. The car’s side mirror had snapped clean off at the neck but still hung on, skewed and drooping, dangling by its adjustment cables.
All this surprised me with an insight I already had, except I hadn’t paid close enough attention to it: winter imposes work. There are certain kinds of labor, and certain kinds of play, only possible or required in winter.
During those days when the snow kept accumulating, when the sky was a blur of white and the ground a sea of it, I had to shovel for the sake of sheer survival. My driveway is short and steep: it climbs a height of over a run of thirty-five feet, a pitch of 7:1, which makes it equivalent to a gabbled roof, a billy goats bluff, a sudden escarpment. The thinnest veneer of ice makes ascent a carnival of antics — spinning wheels, fishtails, abrupt rocketing. Anything more means we’re homebound. I had to stayon top of work to keep up with it all. Whenever three or four inches accumulated, I bundled up again, brave the blizzard (usually with my trusty dog lolloping through the deepening banks with a kind of drunken abandon), and hunkered down to task. I developed a rhythm akin to rowing: push, scoop, lift, fling. After clearing the ground, I filled a plastic bucket with coarse salt and scattered it like an ancient farmer sewing barley seeds, broadcasting it side to side as I took long strides up and down the driveway. Grains of salt pocked the crusts of ice until they became filigree that I scraped off with my shovel blade tipped upside down.
My muscles, not used to this combination of demands, ached for the first few days. Truth is, I resented the labor. Each time I time I cleared the driveway it took close to an hour. It consumed time I might have spent doing other things. I went to the task muttering, returned from it relieved, and also a tad sore at thosewho sat by the fire while I toiled in the storm. They were lucky to have me. They were lucky I didn’t perishin the wilds. Maybe, in their self-absorption, they wouldn’t have known my abscence till morning. Then, alarmed and duly smitten, they’d send out a search party that, hours later, would discover my carcass, rigid with death and ice, ashen with cold, buried beneath a layer of snow so thick I barely left a bump on its surface.
But soon I got to enjoy it. The work, I mean. I relished when the snow reached that magic depth that warranted another round of push, scoop, lift, fling. My body adapted admirably to its new role. I’d come back in the house steaming like a horse. The labor, its vigor and purpose, shook me from the lethargy induced by idleness. I felt that God, for a spell, had granted me an urgent and necessary work, one with measurable results. I even bought winter boots, manly clodhoppers with knobby threads, zippers and laces and flaps, and steel toes, just in case. I had, briefly, joined the ranks of farmers and carpenters and lightbulb makers, people whose efforts we rarely stop to appreciate but which, should they cease, we’d suffer for the want of.
For the record, I don’t always feel this way about my day job.
Now, mid-January, my world has resumed the winter I’m accustomed to — drab, cool, wet, grey. All that remains of the mountainous snow piles are ridges of dirty slush. Bundling up means putting a windbreaker over my sweater. Winter footwear means I lace up my runners than slip on my loafers, and I’ve resumed wearing only slippers for my little jaunts to the curb, to take the garbage out or let the dog do his business.
It’s all rather depressing.
I’d forgotten winter calls forth deep and almost dormant reserves of manliness, or at least fortitude (to which no gender lays special claim). There’s work in winter only winter knows. (And play in winter that only winter knows, but more of that later.) It’s hard work, and good, and needed, and restoring in its own way.
~ Darren’s Comments ~
Do you remember a few years ago, when in New England if not then New Hampshire, we had a cold spell where the weather was bitterly cold for three weeks, end on end. In fact, were considered blessed if the temperature was anymore than 5 degrees faranheit since it was hovering around below 0 for those three weeks. It extended past Christmas and New Years. And while most of the other houses had ran out of fuel to heat their houses, our little miracle was that we didn’t run out of fuel until the below 0 weather stopped. I called the company that delivers our propane, and they said it would take a few days because they were so backed up because the number of houses that were in need of fuel were astronomical. I smiled thinking God even watches over how much fuel we have.
Or this one winter, my wife prayed for snow and heaps of snow piled up that season for at least two or three times a weak. The reason why my wife prayed for snow is because we had little of it, except an occassional storm or two that would give us at the most 8-9 inches per year. She was hoping that we would have a nice winter season with plenty of snow that it doesn’t get washed away by some rain storm that would happen less than a week after the storm left. Well, her prayers got answered with one to two snow snowstorms a week for that particular winter. I remember early on in that winter I asked her not to pray for snow again. Instantly, she knew how powerful is the prayer of the righteous as she leans on Christ’s righteousness.
Yes, those two winters were different but each had its defining quality: they were hard on the body. One winter that was the longest stretch of frigid below 0 weather; the other endless snow. However, during each of those two winters, I started to complain and at times I was wondering if my family would miss me if I was gone frozen into a popsicle stick with my properly gloved hands behind a one-stage snowblower that took me almost two to three hours to clear going out there two or three times to make a pathway to the house — all around the house.
As harrowing as those two winters were, those two winters have nothing compared to the winter of the heart I did experience shortly after my 18th birthday (JUNE 28, 1989). Although it was in the beginning of summer it was the start of a long, rough winter which has shaped the rest of my life. I still have residual effects: I limp when I walk, my fullest sprint is like a regular man’s jog, I have speech or expressive aphasia (which is frustrating beyond belief), I talk slower so that makes a majority of people think that I am slow in the head not that I have a post-graduate degree, etc. However, I take that since God said through the writing of the Apostle Paul that “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)” and a verse that I found (even though I listened to/read the Bible in various translations) was coming from the Apostle Peter in 1 Peter 2:21 which says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, LEAVING YOU AN EXAMPLE, so that you might follow in His steps” (ESV).
“Now, mid-January, my world has resumed the winter I’m accustomed to — drab, cool, wet, grey. All that remains of the mountainous snow piles are ridges of dirty slush. Bundling up means putting a windbreaker over my sweater. Winter footwear means I lace up my runners than slip on my loafers, and I’ve resumed wearing only slippers for my little jaunts to the curb, to take the garbage out or let the dog do his business” (“Spiritual Rhythm,” pg. 44). The major effects upon my life has been done at the young age of 18. If I could, I’d probably go back and change some of the foolish decisions I made leading up to the car accident. Yet, would I? Seemingly, it would have made my physical life a whole lot easier, but there is some wisdom in what I’m about to share with you: don’t look at hard times as the thing you must endure, rather look on those hard times as an opportunity for you to get closer with God. Remember, it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the desert to be tempted (Matthew 4:1-12), so that means in order to get closer to God you have to be tempted and go through rough times, even unto physical death if you want to stand up for His name.
Finally, to tell you how much I suffer since my major car accident would not do the word justice any good. In fact, many of you who are reading this have many stories of the like although in many different scenarios, ages, situations, etc. . . The common denominator is hurt. This one question remains: How could a good God work through so much hurt and pain? The answer is simple: Christ bore it all for us so that in His death He put those situations to death. Christ is the ultimate reconciler because He went through it first. The rough childhood, the rape, the molestation, the feeling of being jipped, anything that you have gone through, like my car accident. That is why I could do nothing without My Saviour. He’s there through the thick and thin of it, whatever your “it” might be.
~ Darren L. Beattie, The Soul Blogger ~