The Thaw

Maybe it’s global warming or something, but we didn’t have any snow, really, until about three weeks ago, when we had three good-sized falls one after the other. The cross-country skiers and snowmobilers had a brief period of happiness – and then, this week, the temperatures rose and it started to rain. I cannot begin to tell you how ugly it is out there right now: the landscape is sodden under a dank grey sky. As always at the cusp of Late Winter and Spring Mud Season, the snow’s loss reveals much that had been decently buried for the duration, and the air becomes redolent with the heavy aroma of old dog droppings. Crazy as it sounds, I’d almost as soon we had more snow, just to cover it all up again.

Sounds depressing? It is depressing. People are cranky. People are ugly. The supermarket aisles seem to be full of large wobbly butts and bellies and large unsmiling faces, probably because no one (me included) is in much of a mood at the moment to do anything but grouse and grumble, and even the stereotypically gorgeous can’t survive that sort of mood without both turning ugly and seeing nothing but ugly around them.

Of course a person can comfort herself by saying, it’s late February, almost March, and spring’s only a couple of months away now; this too shall pass, just as this life will pass. A person could stare out at the flooded driveway and the sodden snowbank beyond it and fantasize about rolling green fields full of wildflowers and very large old trees and shrubs with scented blooms, of deep mysterious copses, and a great calm silver river flowing between beautiful banks... A person could try to escape, at least mentally, from the unpleasantness of this world into the beauty of the next. Because sometimes, this landscape really is terribly depressing, and we need whatever comfort we can find.

But while we’re called to walk with one foot in Hope, we’re also called to walk with the other foot in the Here-and-Now, because that’s where our lives and work are at present. There may or may not be pie in the sky when we die, but in this particular life, on this particular day, supper still has to be got, and the baby changed, and the income tax filled out, and the walk shoveled, and the laundry sorted and put away. Nobody said that faith would make life any simpler or easier. It doesn’t, in fact, affect life in that sense at all. It does make a difference not in the face that life shows us, but in the face that we show life.

By the time I headed down to the bank to pay the gas bill, the rain had crossed that subtle divide from Very Cold Rain into Freezing Rain and was starting to build ice up on any available surface. We’re still extremely antsy about ice around here, after the Great Ice Storm two years ago. We still see the damage from that horror. So seeing those deadly, familiar, beautiful beadlets forming on trees and railings, I tensed up a little more and was that much more miserable...

But crossing the downtown bridge, as I headed up the street, were two people: friends, I think, not lovers: a roly-poly woman and a strange-looking curly-headed man, arm in arm, laughing over some tremendous shared joke. They stopped midbridge and whooped and beat on the steel railing with their mittened fists, convulsed with giggles. I slowed and smiled for then, and I know the middle-aged guy in the Really Big Pickup Truck behind me slowed and smiled too; I know, because I was watching him in my rear-view window, wanting to meet his eyes and share the joke with him. You couldn’t help smiling, watching those two. And you could help wanting to share the smile with whoever else was within easy reach.

Maybe one of the jobs we have as saints-in-training is simply to laugh, for no particularly good reason, in grey times like this, so that we can lift our own spirits and those of others. Maybe part of the value of our being fools for God is in loosing a fair bit of contagious silliness on the world around us, because God knows, it needs it. Maybe the worst thing we can be at times is too serious, too bound up in this world’s pain and evil. Maybe what this world needs most isn’t to be lectured on its sins and scolded for its iniquities, but just to be given a good case of the giggles.

I don’t know. But I do know that I was in a better, more cheerful, and far more charitable mood as a result of those two laughers - and surely that’s what God would tend to desire?

Copyright © 2000 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 26 Feb 2000
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