A thin layer of white

The season’s first snowfall came quietly, almost hesitantly, right before dusk on the evening of the Epiphany. I noticed the tiny flakes, illuminated by the porch light, just as my daughters called out in unison “It’s snowing!” with childlike joy. We had all decided to stay in that night, cancelling or postponing plans in expectation of the storm. Though only a few inches fell, it was enough to coat our neighborhood in pure, immaculate beauty, just perfect for the new year.

As night descended, the flakes did so as well, heavier at times, and we decided to head outdoors, for there are few wintertime pleasures I enjoy more than a walk in the snow, especially at night. We found hats and warm boots, dormant since last March, and stepped into a world of wonder and awe, our usually busy neighborhood transformed. No cars drove by. No residents walked their dogs. Muffled sounds of a distant plow and our feet crunching on the snowy driveway were the only disturbances to this crystalized wonderland. I glanced up at little ice particles covering the tall barren branches that reached heavenward and marveled at God’s natural creation, wondering why it always seems more powerful in winter.

As we moved down the street, the stillness remained, and we relished it. No one spoke. There was no need. The words of Psalm 46 “Be still and know that I am God” replayed in my mind as I honored the peace and beauty that he created around us. It forced us all to pause, not only our conversations but our pace as well. Clunky boots and the uncertainty of ice played a part, though any loud sound or quick movement would have felt out of place. God’s glory was at work here, and I didn’t want to miss a moment. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays and a hectic week back at work, I needed this time to soothe and refresh my active mind. Maybe my family did too.

Turning the corner, we saw the remnants of a neighbor’s Christmas display, the multi-colored lights glowing faintly under a thin layer of white. Suddenly, the wind stirred, swirling snow up and around us like tiny stars, a burst of brilliance in the shadows of this moonless night. A fitting reminder, it was, of this night so long ago when the Magi followed one brilliant star to lay prostrate before their newborn king.

Like the new fallen snow around us, a new year was beginning—clean, unblemished, albeit brief. I knew later that night, the muffled sounds of the distant plow would come closer, clearing our road and disturbing the snow, as we would the next morning with whatever accumulated in the driveway. The freshness of early January—and its purity—is fleeting, with challenges and blemishes ahead, but maybe that’s part of its beauty. We appreciate it more, knowing it can’t last.

Even after those first few inches of snow melted several days later, I retained not only mental photographs of our evening walk but the feelings of closeness with those around me, ones to keep alive long after any remaining snowflakes have disappeared.