Ode to Snow

The snow melted today, and the world is drab.

We’ve had four days of it. We awoke to a crisp blanket laid over our garden, and then it kept going. We did the thing that you do when it snows: we stopped and stared. Every time you glance out of the window or walk into a new room it catches your attention again. It’s arresting, its all we talk about while its here, and it lifts the spirits wonderfully.

There’s something magical about snow.

I’m told people from other countries don’t react like this, which must be really sad for them. I suppose I understand it if you get lots of snow through the winter, the mundanity of it strips it of its magic. Unless you live somewhere very high or very remote we don’t get a lot of snow in the UK. It’s a rare blessing to be enjoyed for a handful of days a year. There’s no guarantee any given year will have any, but this winter we’ve been blessed with several days so far.

There’s something magical about snow. Or about a Narnian frost; when the trees are cold iron and sky forged steel. I believe the weather forecasters call that ‘freezing fog’, but I like my version better.

It brings out the childlike in us, brings out the wonder that we so often bury away.

I remember a few years back when I worked in a big open plan office that had a massive window down one wall. On the rare occasions it snowed half the office gathered to stare at the flakes dancing in the air as it fell. The other half frantically checked the travel information to see if they could get home. Briefly the day felt festive, until an older guy called Dave loudly says “it’s only snow, you’ve seen it before” and everyone sheepishly goes back to their desks feeling mildly foolish for being so childish.

Except we weren’t foolish, and we weren’t childish. Dave’s the one in the wrong. It’s a common mistake to see an adult being childlike and accuse them of childishness, but it is a mistake. To be childish is abandon the maturity of adulthood, to be childlike is to shed its foolishness. Childishness is to be avoided, childlikeness to be cultivated.

How do you cultivate it? By sensing wonder. What causes wonder? When our eyes are opened, almost anything, while they’re being opened nothing is quite like snow.

Why does snow cause us to wonder? You probably aren’t asking this question, but I’ve got a list of six reasons that snow causes us to wonder and I’m damn well going to share them with you.

Wonder at beauty

Everything is beautiful, and everything that was already beautiful is enhanced. We wonder simply at beauty. And this is enough.

Wonder at covering

The world turns white, its imperfections are masked. We wonder at the way a simple covering can change something to brilliant purity. Our eyes are, perhaps, lifted to contemplate the way that we were previously scarlet with sin and are now white as snow (Isaiah 1). Or maybe to gasp at the way Jesus’ atoning death covers us. It doesn’t even melt.

Wonder at transformation

Overnight our house moves from suburban Birmingham to an arctic tundra. The view from every window is transformed. We wonder at change. Perhaps our hearts are lifted to consider what we were before we walked with the Lord, and how different we are now. To follow the way of Jesus is to be changed to be more like him, and it should make us gape.

Wonder at enchantment

My street is ordinary. My garden is a bit above average in size, but ordinary. Cover it in snow and it becomes a place of adventure and wonder. We marvel at the normal turned mythic, at a garden enchanted. Perhaps we notice that the lives we live are flat and sucked of their superlative delight. Perhaps we notice that life in Christ is supposed to be breathed through silver, that we were made for meaning and we find our meaning in stories that are bigger and grander and wilder than ourselves.

Wonder at stopping

Snowfall grinds this country to a halt. It didn’t snow in London this time (January 2021) so we didn’t hear the usual news stories about how terrible it is that we can’t cope with an inch or two of snow. It’s nonsense and we should scoff at it. It’s good that we grind to a halt for a couple of days a year. It gives us a chance to stop. Snow days are a prophetic push-back against the tyranny of hurry. Perhaps you see this, and you notice that the Lord is the one with storehouses of snow (Job 38) and he gifted you this day, and you give thanks.

Wonder at comfort

Snow is an excuse to engage in wintery passions. If you lived in a country that has snow you might imagine skiing or some such. They’ve got it all wrong. The joys of winter are in log fires, mulled wine, and good books. The snow is an excuse to lean into the season, and who really needs much of one of those? Perhaps as the white out the window catches your eye and your breath, as the awe rises again, you could lift your heart and wonder at the kindness of God. 

This, dear friends, is what happens when a writer likes something. You get around 900 words of purple prose when all I’m trying to say is “I like snow.”

Or, from another angle, you get a chance to wonder. Fight the mundanity. Fight Dave. Be childlike. Gasp as the flakes fall. They’re special. Just like everything else is.

Photo by Fabian Mardi on Unsplash