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Column | The Simple Swan

The Simple Swan | Alicia Woodward: Snowfall quiets a restless world

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Alicia Woodward

Alicia Woodward

When a pretty winter snow tucks everyone in under a cozy blanket of white, I feel as I did long ago when my fussy babies finally drifted off to sleep. In that magical time when snowflakes fall like fairy dust from the sky, the world becomes as still as a child in dreamy slumber. If you listen closely, the snow sings a soothing lullaby that hushes our restless world, and as the flakes float through the frosty air, they whisper comforting words we may have lost along our busy way.

Softly... In his poem The Dream Keeper, Langston Hughes wrote about "the too rough fingers of the world." To some extent, we've all experienced the harshness of this world. A friend told me she was afraid the world was making her hard. I understand her concern, but I know better. She has the kind of heart that will allow her to stay soft. The more jagged and edgy the world becomes, the more important it is for some of us to hold on to a presence as soft as snow.

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Gently... Gentleness isn't celebrated much these days. We make heroes of the rough and tough, the fast and furious, the brash and the bold. Author Garrison Keillor wrote, "Even in a time of elephantine vanity and greed, one never has to look far to see the campfires of gentle people." My husband is proof it's possible to possess a kind of gentle strength. Like snowflakes, we can learn to move through life more gently.

Quietly... In his famous poem about a snowy evening, Robert Frost took us into the woods where the only sound was "the sweep of easy wind and downy flake." He makes us want to enter those woods so lovely, dark and deep to escape our noisy world. Music thumps from the car in the next lane. Shoppers blab into cell phones while roaming store aisles. Restaurants are so loud it's hard to converse. Even the thinnest layer of velvety white snow muffles the noise with a welcome quietude.

Peacefully... There is a precious stretch of time when freshly fallen snow turns the world into a scene encased in a snow globe. As if in suspended animation, everything snow touches becomes perfect and peaceful. Looking out an icy window or taking a winter walk, the snow brings a sense of pure tranquility. "It powders all the wood," wrote Emily Dickinson. "It fills with alabaster wool the wrinkles in the road."

Long before the snow has to be shoveled, before it is spoiled by boots and sleds and tire tracks, before it turns into the slushy mess that is real life, a lovely snowfall freezes our world for a spell. It forces us to settle in for a little respite, and allows us to contemplate nature, our nature, so soft, gentle, quiet and peaceful.

Alicia is a retired language arts teacher who lives with her husband in Mount Vernon, their hometown. She writes The Simple Swan, a blog featuring uplifting essays, stories and poetry at www.thesimpleswan.com. Email her at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com

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