As shocking as the revelation may be, I have had a lifelong love affair with winter.
For me, snow is magical in its brilliance and iridescence, and the hushed, cottony silence it bestows is even more captivating. I am not bothered by having to drive more slowly or carefully; in fact, I think it’s an excellent spiritual practice. If I wear enough layers, it’s never too cold for a brisk walk, and I look forward to snow-shoeing and playing in snowbanks with the dogs. Just to sit at a window and watch the snow drift, suspend, and flutter its way down to the earth offers a deeply healing meditation experience. I enjoy the slower pace of winter and I don’t mind that it lasts until spring returns and restores accelerated energy.
My spirit therefore rebels and droops when I wake on a mid-December morn to learn the day will bring an inch of rain and the urge to fire up the grill. (One inch of rain would convert to almost 10 inches of snow. And to be honest, the urge to cook on the grill exists and is satisfied by many Wisconsinites all year round. But still.)
So I’m going to play Christmas music, read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and make caramels. I’m trying to welcome the day as gracefully as I can, despite the fact that I just caught and released an Asian beetle and a box elder bug who were hanging around indoors. (“Go outside and play!”) When I stood on the porch observing their limb-stretching joy at being set into a warmer environment than they’d enjoyed inside my home, I couldn’t help noticing the equally cheerful green weeds sprouting in the front garden.
Phillip and I went to see the movie Hugo last weekend. Now that I’ve had eye surgery, we thought it would be fun to try a 3-D movie.
It was lovely.
The opening long-shots of 1930’s Paris during a snowfall, took my breath away. The story captivated everyone in the theater; I could sense our little community of parents, children, and couples were caught up in the magic and very willing to suspend disbelief and live within the story for its duration.
The movie’s sets were primarily dark, with little color or vivid relief, and the pacing slowed as the story explored themes of loss and renewal. I felt my focus move from the film to the audience at times, and wondered if the young children might lose their connection and become bored, but my attention would again be drawn into the film and, frankly, I forgot about everything else until it ended.
Which is when the magic really happened.
Just as the final shot subsided, from seats throughout the theater came a chorus of children’s sighs, those little fairy gasps we humans create when we’re released from the sacred spells life casts and so surprises and holds our spirits enthralled. Adults don’t release these spirit-filled breaths very often; we don’t look long or deeply enough to realize we’re always stepping through magic portals.
And then, as if on some synchronized cue, the children began to clap, the most joyful and innocent music I’ve heard in a long time. No other sound; just children, clapping their joy and gratitude. Phillip and I paused a moment; it seemed all the adults, sitting in the otherwise silent dark, paused as well. We could feel energy shifting. Astonished by the forgotten or misplaced purity of delight calling to us from our long-ago childhoods, we located, adjusted, and then tossed away our painstakingly-designed adult ego-masks, and freely joined in the clapping. Not a thoughtless reflex, but a response of gratitude for the deep joy of art, the feelings it elicits, the hopes it engenders, the connections it creates.
It was an experience of pure gift I’ll always associate with this film. Like all memories, I can re-visit it whenever I need its blessings to nourish and water my spirit.
I believe a new spiritual practice may be to freely and whole-heartedly applaud throughout the daily round. Especially as a response to events that are other than I desire.
The cats are snoozing beneath the Christmas tree as happily as ever (clap!), the dogs will enjoy our walk in the rain as much as they enjoy every walk (clap!), and I’ll have caramels to savor and share when we watch tonight’s Christmas movie (clap!).
Create and share your art. Applaud the art of others.
It’s always a wonderful life.