Currently viewing the tag: "Snow"

I watched her shovel the snow in fits and starts with a 3-year-old boy trailing behind, and I felt sorry for her. She was at home during most days with the little one, while her husband, I presumed, was out at work. I never saw him shovel. Rarely did I see him at all, to be honest.

I spent most of the morning laying out salt, waiting, then clearing our modest driveway and sidewalk. The snowfall took little pauses here and there, but it never completely stopped. We saw three feet come down in no time at all.

“Wanna finish mine?” she called out from across the street.

I smiled, neighbor-like.

“Maybe your beau could stop on the way home and pick up some salt. It really helps to break up the ice.”

She smiled.

“Oh, he’s inside. Works from home. Don’t have to leave for work when you work on a laptop.”

What a jerk, I though, sitting inside at his computer while his wife is trying to clear off a sky-load of snow while simultaneously calming an irritated child.

“Well, I can pick you up some salt if I’m out by the hardware store,” I offered.

“Only if convenient,” she said politely.

She carried on for a few more minutes, digging out a single path from the front door to the buried car. By then, her son was in full tantrum-mode, so she picked him up and went inside.

Once I cleared an escape route for our car, my husband and I set off to the store to pick up a few snowed-in essentials. I couldn’t let go of this situation. I was so angry at her work-at-home husband. I though he was negligent, and mean. I started to concoct this story about their imbalanced, destined-to-fail relationship. I was on a roll, and I didn’t let go of it for the entire drive.

“You should curse him,” my husband joked.

“I just want to shame him,” I said.

“Same thing.”

When we returned home, I picked up our well-used, metal shovel and walked across the street. The sun had set by then, but the radiant light from a mini-mountain range of lawns and cars roofs provided plenty enough light to see.

I’d decided — not out of neighborly kindness, but out of spite — to do this man’s work. Compassion was not my motivation; I was fueled by a passive-aggressive vengeance. I wanted to stick it to him. And it wasn’t without justification, I believed. There were many, horrible things that could have befallen this family had the snow been left on the ground.

What if their son had broken his leg? What if he had an allergic reaction to some new food? How did they plan to get to the hospital when their car was completely blocked in? Had he even thought of that? What kind of father was this man?! His negligence was going to lead to other people’s injury. I was certain of it.

My internal rant continued until the driveway and sidewalk were clear. My forehead was drenched with sweat, and my wool sweater completely soaked through. I was a mess, but it was worth it.

I shoveled the snow leading up to their porch, and as I reached the last step I heard the door open. I looked up, and there she stood, baby on her hip.

Pride. Self-satisfaction. This was my moment.

“Did you do the sidewalk?” she asked, surprised.

“And the driveway,” I said, trying to sound somewhat matter-of-fact about it. “You never know when you’re going to need to get your car out. There could be an emergency, or something.”

She pointed inside. “He’s going to have a liquor store emergency pretty soon.” She smirked.

Well that wasn’t at all what I was thinking about. I tried to brush it off.

Then, she said the words that threw everything into a tailspin.

“I was just going to wait for a high-functioning Mexican to come by tomorrow and do it. That’s what usually happens.”

A high-functioning Mexican? A…high…functioning…Mexican?

My mind went blank. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. I was speechless.

I stood in the cold; shocked and sweaty. She offered to bake me muffins for my trouble, and I muttered that she didn’t have to do that. I couldn’t stomach the thought. Then, she said a polite “goodbye” and went inside.

She wasn’t helpless; that was just “gender stereotyping” on my part. And he wasn’t a tyrant. They were just a young, married couple with a driveway full of white privilege, and they were waiting for someone else to come take care of it for them.

Turns out, that someone else was me.

I felt stupid, and ashamed of myself. I’d done all of this to prove a point, but it was me who was given a lesson.

Act without compassion, and you will experience an absence of compassion. Seek to shame another, and you will experience shame. Place another man’s negligence on trial, and you will come to see how you, yourself, have been negligent.

Can you see any other lessons in this experience?

Earlier this week the air took a turn toward December, becoming wet and visible, and the moisture that fell in cold, slow-motion stuck quickly to the cars, the streets, and the sidewalks. On the morning after the storm a massacre of tree branches covered the earth around my house, proving both the strength of water and the fragility of wood.

What I like about the snow, and the timing of this particular storm being so close to Samhain, is the way in which it provides tactile evidence that the season is changing, that the Hallows are near. The shift toward winter is not simply an interesting idea; it is something to touch, to feel.

The dead leave little evidence of their continued living, so we are forced to find them at the intersection of interesting ideas and tactile experiences; we search for them in snow drifts, between the breaths of our chanting, and in the smoke rising from our censors. We listen for them in the floorboards of houses, too.

Do The Dead Dance?

In our new house of less than a week, my psychic husband and I have encountered some strange phenomena. The doorbell rings unexpectedly, and several other electrical devices make noise for no clear reason. There are creaks and bumps in empty spaces, and our kid gets creeped out whenever she walks past the staircase. She’s a certified Medium, by the way.

If these strange occurrences are more than faulty wiring, as everyone seems to think, then the dead may indeed be wresting with the same existential questions as are the living. Is a ghost fiddling with switches in an attempt to get our attention all that different from a group of Druids or Wiccans lighting our incense, ringing our bells or projecting our invisible parts into other realms in search of the Ancestors? Perhaps we’re all trying to do the same thing, just from opposite sides of an increasingly thinning veil.

I like the idea of the Dead doing ritual to make contact with the living. I’m not sure that’s how it works, but there’s comfort in thinking that certain aspects of this life are mirrored in the next. Or, rather, that aspects of the Other Side are mirrored over here.

As Samhain approaches, and people juggle their Halloween parties with their group gatherings and rituals, and Pagans across the land set aside some private time of reflection on the changing of the season, I wonder what the dead are doing. Do they gather in preparation for the coming days, sensing that the air has changed? Can they feel the transition? Is it snowing over there, too?

Do the dead dance naked around the fire…

…like some of us do?

What To Do When The Dead Come Knocking

We spend most of the year focussed on the human experience of living. We honor the Earth and celebrate points along an agricultural calendar because we eat food in order to be alive, and we see value in honoring the land from which that food came. We see new life born around us in the spring and summer, born of flesh and soil, and we celebrate the life that we create. Life, for the most part, is all about the living.

But Samhain is different. This High Day is about the intersection of the lives of the living with the lives of the dead. This holiday is about remembering that there is more to reality than our living experience of this world. There is more than what we grow, what we build, what we see blossoming all around us. There is a quality to death of which we can hardly conceive, and rather than push it away out of ignorance we embrace it in reverence. We celebrate the mystery, and we delight in the sacred unknowing.

So, on this coming High Day, the day that little Witches dream about during the sweltering heat of summer, the day that Puritans of old (and new) dread with every inch of their starched, Sunday suits, the day that warrants sweet candy, sultry stockings and a healthy pinch of spookiness, I think I shall listen for the call of the dead, for the rising chant of some ghostly group who, themselves, reach back with ethereal hands into this Earthly realm in search of some familiar feeling. I will open every ear I’ve got — on my head, in my hands, at the bottom of my feet — and I will listen for the call of those who’ve left this place to travel on to a land that even myth can barely approach. I will watch for their postcard, wait for their telegram, look for their fleeting face in the shimmering snow.

Perhaps they will arrive at my door in costume. Or, perhaps they’re already inside. Either way, they are welcome to cup of spiced cider on this blessed Samhain night!


If these words stirred something in you, or if you’d like to share your thoughts on Samhain, please do so in the comments. I always love to hear from you. And, I’d be grateful if you’d help broaden the conversation by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter.