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Stillness and Snow Days

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By Martin Elfert

When I am aged and holding the photograph album in my lap, my grandchildren listening with a mixture of incredulity and boredom as I tell stories about what life was like way back around the year 2000, one of my favorite tales will be a simple one. I will tell my yet-to-be descendants about a Friday morning in the winter of 1995, in the final year of my undergraduate studies at the University of British Columbia.

I had an exam scheduled that morn and I wasn’t ready for it.

I had been pushing hard to get a show open at UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, and I was exhausted and out of time. And so I had gone to bed the night before resigned to the likelihood that I was going to do poorly on the test.

But overnight, unexpectedly, the heavens opened – not with the drizzle that we know so well in the Pacific Northwest, but with the gift of snow. When I looked out of my bedroom window, everything was white and still and marvelously silent.

I turned on the radio to learn that school was indeed cancelled. I said thank you. And I went back to sleep.

It was awhile later that I was awakened by the thump of snowballs hitting my window. Phoebe (now my wife, then my girlfriend) and her sister were outside, hucking cold and powdery missiles at the place where I slept. I got dressed and the three of us headed for the park where, even though we were officially adults, we played like children.

It was glorious.

The test postponed, I spent the weekend studying. And come Monday morning, I was ready when I sat down for the rescheduled exam.

Snow Days have always felt like magic to me. Maybe that is because, unlike a weekend or a vacation, they come unannounced and unplanned for. Snow Days show up in our lives like a favorite uncle arriving unexpectedly at our house with a box full of balloons and play dough and water pistols.

Or maybe it is because, in an age when the world has largely stopped slowing down for Sundays and for holidays, Snow Days feel like an example of something old and almost lost:

They feel like Sabbath.

We all share the need for Sabbath. Whether or not church or temple or mosque or some other kind of practice is part of our lives, we all share the need to slow down. Human beings require a time of quiet as part of the rhythm of our days. We require a time of stillness.

I suspect that it is the stillness of the Snow Day that makes me love it so much. The cold whiteness blankets the land. Fewer of us get in our cars. And the snow itself dampens the noise of the city, lending our urban surroundings a quiet that we usually have to go to the backcountry to discover. We stay home to read and to drink hot chocolate. Perhaps we walk to the park. Maybe we throw snowballs against the bedroom window of a sleeping student.

For a moment, the rush is gone, the noise is gone, the to-do list is gone. And we are together. Together for the gift of an unexpected Sabbath. Together in the miracle of the snow.

 

Martin Elfert

About Martin Elfert

The Rev. Martin Elfert is an immigrant to the Christian faith. After the birth of his first child, he began to wonder about the ways in which God was at work in his life and in the world. In response to this wondering, he joined Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he and his new son were baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2005 and where the community encouraged him to seek ordination. Martin served on the staff of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Spokane, Wash. from 2011-2015. He is now the rector of Grace Memorial Episcopal Church in Portland, Oreg.

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