Footsteps in the Snow

There is a quiet in the days after Christmas isn’t there?  Maybe not a perfect quiet, but a sense of diminished noise at the very least.  I think for many this quiet holds a relief or a sigh.  Maybe for some the quiet releases the flood of depression that was being withheld by the gates of the holiday season.  Perhaps even for some it is a bitter quiet, filled with regret or remorse.  In all cases, this quiet is a time for remembering, for recollecting those we were with, those we wish we were with but weren’t, and those who it is now impossible to be with because they are gone.

Winter helps this remembering by being quiet around us and listening.  Nature often does this…just listens.  The birds go away, the sounds of men grow distant, the trees stand tall and silent, not ominous but patient.  When you walk around, you must do so carefully for anything more than the gentle crunch of snow beneath your feet would seem like a rude interruption between your thoughts and the silent world.

Such a quiet is a bit unnerving to a great many people these days I feel.  And how sad, to be frightened by something so good for our hearts.  What a strange thing to not have advertisements, expectations, food, toys, technology, envy, even music, exploding all around us like cannon fodder.  Suddenly people are confronted with themselves and all the thoughts they haven’t heard because its been much to loud to hear.  Or a loved one, now gone, joins them in the silence and the snow for an instant…only to disappear again.

Always this winter child,
December sun sits low against the sky,
Cold light on frozen fields,
The cattle in their stable lowing.

When two walked this winter road,
Ten thousand miles seemed nothing to us then,
One walks with heavy tread,
The space between their footsteps slowing.

All day the snow did fall,
What’s left of the day is close drawn in,
I speak your name as if you’d answer me,
But the silence of the snow is deafening.

How well do I recall our arguments,
Our logic holds no debts or recompense,
Philosophy and faith were ghosts
That we would chase until
The gates of heaven were broken.

But something makes me turn, I don’t know,
To see another’s footsteps there in the snow;
I smile to myself and then I wonder why it is
You only cross my mind in winter.

I love this simple and heartfelt treatment of the J.S. Bach tune.  And somehow it sits well with what I know to be true about this time of year.  It is a time to be quiet. To sit with our self.  To listen.  To remember.