snow-cathy-fullcathy-headshotBy Cathy Hird

These days, snow hides the shape of the land. Beside streets in town, where in summer there would be a lawn, there are cliffs cut by blowers and hills created by people with shovels. In the country, swells and sharp-edged drifts are laid down by wind, hiding ditches, rocks and fence rows. The world has a different shape, one that changes with each new day.

Last week, several creatures made their mark on the blanket of white outside our home. A fox made a patrol around the barn and out to the field. Deer made their circuit, and wild turkeys left foot prints and wing marks on the snow. Jackrabbits headed for the field that had soy beans in it last summer. They dug for the seeds that had been dropped when the pods split because of the late harvest.

My own tracks were two parallel lines left by my skis. When I crossed into an open area that had been scoured almost smooth by the wind, I saw several intersecting raised lines: some small creature had tunneled just under the surface of the snow. The lines were the size of a mouse, but I could not tell what the creatures had been looking for in the middle of this pasture.snow-cathy-featb

As I headed home, I pondered what we can track in our lives, and what seems to tunnel unseen in our minds and hearts, our spirits and our unconscious. For today, I am going to talk about Wisdom, but you may apply these thoughts to any spiritual aspect of life.

An ancient Hebraic psalm says that Wisdom "is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of (God's) goodness."(NRSV) Sometimes Wisdom does seem that clear, and we can trace its gifts precisely. At a moment of decision making, we remember advice a parent or a mentor gave, and the choice we need to make seems obvious. In a moment of sorrow, a story of healing comes to us, and it restores a sense of hope in us. We can remember the first time we read the story or who told it to us. Tracing the path that Wisdom took can be as easy as following rabbit tracks in the snow.

But the path of Wisdom is not always that clear. At times, a thought comes from nowhere as we ponder the right thing to do in a complex situation. A story surfaces as we try to sort through a conflict, but we do not remember where the story came from. A phrase pops into our mind as we look for the right words to comfort a friend. The words do not sound like us, and we do not remember who might have said them to us, but they express what we long to say.

Sometimes we silence these unexpected offerings of Wisdom. When we cannot trace the path it took to come to us, we may not trust it. When we do not know its origin, we may question the value of the thought. When we do not remember the foundation of the story, we are not sure we want to build our response upon it. "The spotless mirror of God's working" we can trust. These random gifts, these words that rise from we know not where, may be harder to lean upon.

But not all the workings of Wisdom are like the tracks of skies laid on top of the snow. Much is unconscious. There are things we half hear that stay buried in our minds. Stories and sayings slip into our experience, and work like a dream deep inside us. These tunnels made by Wisdom cannot easily be traced but are none the less true and helpful.

As Canadians, as people shaped by western philosophy, we like being in control. We honour conscious thought. We respect the knowledge that is delivered clearly, directly. But as human beings, we find that we do not control Wisdom or Spirit. Knowledge, hope and wisdom come to us in ways we cannot trace. Our unconscious is active in ways we do not see. The Spirit tunnels into our hearts and minds, speaks to our spirit in flashes that come suddenly, unexpectedly as if from nowhere.

Winter is a challenge, in more ways than one. But it is a good teacher, too. A great deal is taking place even now under that blanket of snow.

Cathy Hird is a farmer, minister and writer living near Walter's Falls.




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