We are expecting an inch or more of snow here in Georgia, the forecasters say. It will barely be on the ground long enough to roll a snowman or make a snow angel. In a town known for azaleas, dogwoods, magnolias and pines this event is a cause for celebration.
There is nothing harsh about winters here. Nothing bitter or long or miserable. Banking blizzards and wind-chill temperatures do not prevent students from driving home from college over winter breaks, or slow cars to a scary crawl. Not often, anyway. Georgia experiences intermittent cold snaps punctuated by sunny spring-like days. Spring starts blooming back in February.
Bodies of water do not freeze and we don’t have to wrap our entire heads in scarves, shield our faces from the bitterness, keep antifreeze under the passenger seat of the car, scrape ice from our windshields or put hand warmers inside our gloves.
Snow plows and blowers don’t exist. No mittens are strewn on the fireplace to thaw.
But once in a very long while: snow flutters.
The snow doesn’t stay long enough to become dirty.
Truth be told, I miss long months of snow a little bit each year, because those very moments add up to the winter seasons of my first 25 years. Sometimes stranded, often frigid, always a bit precarious November through March. These memories lodged in my heart are probably why I travel to the mountains or the north or to snowcapped Alaska rather than a balmy beach somewhere. Trudging up hills to make snow angels and opening my mouth and eyes wide to the white snow feels like home.
Tonight I pray that the flakes will come.
Because when they do, suddenly I am 8. I am wearing my Iowa State sweatshirt, gearing up to tackle the month-old mounds of snow on the way to the pond, ice skates slung over my shoulder and hollering to my youngest brother to “hurry up.” The girl in me awakens. The girl who had snowball fights and purposefully placed the “dirty snow” into the middle of the snowball. The dirty patch was hidden deep inside until impact, just to show my younger brother who was “boss.” The girl who scooped fresh snow into a bowl from under the dormant lilac bush outside the kitchen window. The girl who added maple syrup sweetness to it, savoring it before anyone was awake in that old wooden home up north.
Maybe the first snow does something similar for all of us.
Whether we have lived north or south, or claim the east or the west as home. Who can deny the beauty and cleansing of fresh white? It’s pureness, the delicate pattern. Each little flake floating unique and intricate and small. There is peace when they pile up together, blanketing, covering and defining. We are able to imprint ourselves as snow angels and roll snowmen and wad the flakes up together to throw at each other. The stark white stinging cold awakens something.
Its impact is even more beautiful here in the South where it stays for only a few hours.
Because when snow sticks for too long we mess it up with footprints and exhaust and the blackness. We pollute it. Temperatures hover below freezing for months. The blinding white fades gray and then to shades of black. We slosh around in months-old snowy puddles. We forget it was sent here clean. It becomes dirty snow and we look to the skies to bring another layer.
No matter how long the snow stays, and how dirty it gets, the season do changes eventually. All is melted away.The grass sprouts and reaches and the sun makes the crops grow. The fall leaves break free and are swept. The corn is gathered and the autumn days become short.
Days feel blackest again.
We look to the skies for a fresh cleansing.
And just then, God seems to say:
“Come now, let us settle the matter,”Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” ~Isaiah 1:18
He wants to settle the matter.
Those are some strong healing words. No dirty snow there.
All is pure again at the next snowfall.
A single flake begins the dance of pure white floating tonight.
I pray that flake by flake each will join together and pile into tall banks.
New banks of grace where angels can be made.