Cumbrian Snowscape by Lorna Graves
New Year Snow by Frances Horowitz
For three days we waited,
a bowl of dull quartz for sky.
At night the valley dreamed of snow,
lost Christmas angels with dark-white wings
flailing the hills.
I dreamed a poem, perfect
as the first five-pointed flake,
that melted at dawn:
to peer back at guttering dark days,
trajectories of the spent year.
And then snow fell.
Within an hour, a world immaculate
as January’s new-hung page.
We breathe the radiant air like men new-born.
The children rush before us.
As in a dream of snow
we track through crystal fields
to the green horizon
and the sun’s reflected rose.
A painting and a poem by two artists whom I love and who celebrated the magical properties inherent in our natural world when seen through the eyes of a loving imagination. Lorna Graves' Cumbrian Hills dream of Horowitz's snow. Snow that is both particles of crystalline water cold and touched into place by angels' wings. One of Lorna's actual angels, visiting Tobias, sits over the table where I write this.
In Christian imagination, the nativity is the moment, in time, when the possibility of this way of seeing was remade, renewed. St Augustine writes that it is the moment when 'sapientia', wisdom, is reunited with our sensual knowledge of things. All is revealed as sacrament, as graced gift, in the one-ing graced gift that is Jesus.
It is the very nature of water to be drunk. It is the very nature of water to rinse us clean of our failings to miss the divinity of our being just so. The glory of God is the human person fully alive: being a human being is hanging out and being glorious, one and all. Now there is a criteria by which to discern the quality of our personal and social actions!
Remembering to see the world as gift, rather than as a commodity, learning to live within in it with holy intention and practice, has never been more necessary and serious as the invitation of Christmas (and you all thought it was about puddings. Christmas pudding...!!!).
It is an invitation celebrated not in the acquiring of gifts (or puddings) (enjoyable as they can be) but in rushing out into the gift, the pristine, of freeing snow, to make celebratory, danced tracks into a world that is always just new in its continuous giftedness. It is often forgotten that the Nativity is an impromptu party - angels strumming, shepherds flocking, sheep wandering off all over the place and kings with outrageous gifts (and this being a fallen world a politician, Herod, who seriously does not get it).
So here is to more rollicking in the snow (appropriate as Switzerland beckons) and to treating the earth as a renewing green horizon, reflecting the sun's light rosily. There is a New Year's resolution: how good was I today at reflecting the glory of our given light? How rosy was I, were we?
Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.