Snow Days Open Up Cracks in Time

snowy-woods1An unusually heavy snowstorm has locked us into our homes these past few days, cancelling my Monday classes and locking down the county. Years ago, in an essay I’d love to find again, an author wrote about the “found time” of a snow day.   She noted that, because we normally believe we must make every minute count, the sudden appearance of unscheduled time seems a marvel.

On a snow day it’s as though we have been given permission to do something “frivolous” or even nothing at all.  We look up from our mad dash and see things we have been missing.  There may be those who use snow days to catch up on work (the internet has changed the dynamics of these off days), but in doing so they waste a precious opportunity to enter sacred time.  Work will always be with us but not this gift from the heavens.

The snow turns us inward.  Robert Frost, stopping by woods on a snowy evening, finds himself drawn into profound meditation.  His horse, indoctrinated into human routine, may think it queer that they are stopping with no farmhouse near, but Frost feels suddenly compelled to stop and ponder the meaning of life.  Lovely, dark and deep?  Beauty, mystery, and death.

Then, like his horse giving its bells a shake, Frost too shakes himself and returns to harness.  He has promises to keep, routines to follow, obligations ahead of him.  But that pause in the snow is like a snow day.  Time hangs suspended.

“Stopping by Woods” is, along with “The Road Not Taken,” America’s best known poem.  Frost reports that it came to him all but written, appearing as though from nowhere.  Snow days work like that as well, opening up a crack in the time-space continuum.   Revelation awaits.

In case you need reminding, here’s the poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

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