The Miracle of Snow Angels
“It is enough to breathe and let go of thinking or planning. Just come back to yourself, concentrate on your breath and smile. You are here, body and mind together. You are here. You are completely alive. That is a miracle.” Thich Nhat Hanh from “You Are Here”.
“Happy New Year” we say, with a slight tremor in our voice that reveals both the fragile hope in our hearts, and the uncertainty and worry about what may still lie ahead, as we continue to navigate our way through these unprecedented times. We’ve slowly been adjusting to the reality of a microscopic virus that touches our lives at every single level, while preventing us from reaching out and touching and being with the ones we love.
We long to get back to normal, whatever normal is. For many, Covid-19 has brought about unspeakable suffering, whether from the virus itself, or the economic fall-out, or the stress and exhaustion of being on the front lines. For others, 2020 was a year of stepping back, slowing down, reprioritizing and re-visioning what our life and society is about beyond ‘normal’.
As I ponder the blank page of this upcoming year, I realize that what I really want is to leave the page blank for now. I don’t want to give into the worry and fear that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me, yet at the same time I know that my underlying sense of unease and fear needs to be acknowledged, felt and listened to. I need to give myself some space for this, instead of numbing out on Netflix, or whatever else will distract me from thinking about the future.
This year, I don’t want to over commit, over schedule, over teach, over plan and especially over zoom! I want to leave some space for spontaneous walks with my dog (and my husband!), for music and song, for laughter and tears, for meditation and prayers. I want to make space to be truly present to all the “guests in my guesthouse” as Rumi calls our feelings.
Nature has always been my medicine. During this pandemic I found myself going for long walks, just to breathe and deal with my fears around Covid-19, climate change, and everything else that seems to threaten our sense of well-being and hope for the future. At the beginning of my walks my mind was usually filled with thoughts and worries and plans. Yet with every step and every breath, I could begin to let go. I smiled at signs in the windows of homes with big hearts saying thank you to our health care workers, or the sidewalk art with it’s brightly colored rainbows and happy faces.
Just before Christmas, I took our black lab Emma for a long walk in the coulees here in Lethbridge. It was a sunny and crisp day, with a blanket of snow still on the ground from the day before. I could feel the crunch of fresh snow under my feet as Emma scampered ahead following her own invisible path of scents left by other four footed friends. As I glanced beside me on the path, I saw the unmistakable imprint of a snow angel in the freshly fallen snow. A slow smile began to grow from the depths of my heart to the corners of my mouth. A long forgotten urge welled up inside me and I lay down on my back and completely surrendered to the cold feeling of the snow and the freshness of this moment.
As I slowly began to flap my arms and legs, I could feel the pure joy of the little girl I used to be, with her white fuzzy parka, and her pink striped mittens. It was a moment of pure awareness, of pure playfulness and sheer delight, those priceless gifts of grace that we often don’t notice amidst the busy schedules of our life. The sky above me seemed especially blue, as Emma came back and licked my face looking in my eyes as if to ask “Are you okay?” My whole body tingled with joy, as the sun danced off the surface of the snow.
Following the ancient art of “Snow Angel Makers” down through the ages, I carefully stood up and gingerly stepped away from the imprint, so as not to disturb the image of the angel and her wings. Now there were two snow angels lying side by side, a testament to spontaneous and playful joy.
As I looked back at this image that I knew was momentary and fleeting, I could feel my own impermanence, like just one tiny snowflake in this field of virgin snow. Yet somehow, my being here had made an impression, both physically in the snow, and perhaps for the next person that happens along this path. I imagined a smile slowly growing on that persons’ face, a childlike sense of playfulness growing in his or her heart, and then following an impulse, lying down on the snow, making another angel imprint just for the sheer delight of the moment! This is the miracle of mindfulness, of being fully present in our life. These moments are contagious. They are meant to be shared, in an unending line of angels touching the earth, delicate wings brushing against each other, fragile but resilient hearts coming together in new creative ways to save ourselves, and save our planet.
If I have any resolutions for this year, it’s to do less and take time just to walk, to breathe, to play, to sing, to make snow angels and leave the “angel imprint” for the next person that comes along. And if you’re one of those people on the front lines, know that I am flapping my wings and making an angel for you, because you’re already an angel.