Saturday, December 8, 2012
On Snow and Productivity
I miss snow. It’s December 8th, our Christmas decorations are up, and today’s high is 66 degrees F. That’s just plain wrong. Warm weather is great and all, don’t get me wrong, and as cold-natured as I am I suppose I shouldn’t really be complaining, but... I sure do miss snow. The kind that floatingly, delicately drifts down, or the kind that pours like monsoon rain as it so often did in Syracuse--I’d take either kind right now. I love how snow transforms a dreary world, painted with winter’s browns and tans and other such blah tones, into a breathtaking place where all the grime and muck of the daily grind is buried so deep in white glitter that it’s forgotten, even if only momentarily. I love how it cushions the world’s harsh edges and muffles its angry noise. I love how snow's frigid air brightens and cleanses as I breathe in deep.
Snow forces me to slow down. In a hurry? Rushing around? Speeding down the block at breakneck speed? Not an option when there’s a foot and a half of powder on the road. I like that about snow. Sometimes I don’t even realize how fast my life is buzzing by, and I need something like snow to remind me to take it down a notch. To pause. To rest and breathe and lift up my eyes.
Even in Syracuse, the first big lake effect snow storm of the season always slowed down traffic. People drove cautiously, left the appropriate space buffer between cars, switched lanes slowly and only when there was plenty of room. Listen, I’m talking New York drivers, here. If you’ve never driven in The Empire State, just trust me on this--that’s a big deal! The effect was short-lived though. Give them one or two storms, and after that it was business as usual: snow or no snow, the freeway was a racetrack and every car on it was competition.
I’m fortunate to now be living in a lovely little corner of the world where things don’t move so fast, and where I literally cannot hear traffic or see my nearest neighbor’s house. It’s not unusual to drive behind a tractor when I’m heading into town, or to follow a farm-use-only pickup as I wind up the mountain to work. It’s quite a change from my daily commute--and daily life--just a few months ago.
And yet, despite the slower pace of life here, despite the quiet solitude of my house, I still need help slowing down and quieting my mind. I still feel compelled to fill every niche of time with some productive activity, to “make the most” of each hour, and although that sounds like a good thing, believe me when I tell you it can become quite the opposite. What happens if you’re always speaking, fretting, doing, and never listening, trusting, waiting? What happens if you’re always moving and never resting? What happens if you place your confidence in all the stuff you’ve accomplished? And what happens if/when someday you can’t accomplish all the things you “should have”? What then?
Hey, here’s a thought: Did you know that your worth, that your value, does not depend on how busy you are or how many great things you do? That the number of items you checked off your massive to-do list does not determine how successful you are?
I’m asking myself, really. I know the "right" answers to those questions, but I sometimes have a hard time owning those answers and living them out. Snow helps me. Early morning quiet helps me. Soaking in words of truth helps me. Perhaps these things might help you, too. So today, maybe just sit for a while--with or without the White Stuff--and breathe in. Let the world’s noise be muffled, let its corners be softened, let its beauty be revealed. Breathe out. Slow down as if there were two feet of snow outside, even if it is 66 degrees. Just listen. Just breathe. Just be.