Held in the Arms of Snow
By Rachel Field, Heartberry Hollow Farm & Forest - March 22, 2023
Farming is, in a large part, simply a series of logistical challenges. Much of the daily work of farming is an order-of-operations style of spatial puzzles. There is a rhythm and dance between the land, our bodies, and the bodies of the animals that can be predictable. This dance can be made easier by being able to anticipate both the needs of the animals and the changes that the seasons will bring. Fall freezing temperatures mean bringing in hoses and draining standing water before dark. Summer heat means running extra hoses for mid-day pig baths and extra salt licks for the cows and horses. Winter snow and hard freezing means that there is a metal bar needed by the big water trough for breaking ice three times a day. The days, weeks, seasons, and even years begin to become a familiar pattern traced on the land and traced on our bodies. And. Every so often the world shimmies under our feet and reminds us that in this dance, she is the lead, and we are the willing partner following her footsteps.
On Tuesday the dance pattern changed with a heap of snow that started falling and….didn’t stop until Thursday. I was reminded of those moments when Jaden (Jonathan’s 8 year old son) was having a hard time and Jonathan held him firmly against his heart to quiet and calm him. As foot after foot of snow fell from the sky, I felt like the earth was wrapping her arms firmly around me, holding me to her heart, and inviting me to become still.
The illusion that I could anticipate, control, or manage the land dissolved in a moment (I have no delusions that I will not take up those feelings again, but hey, small mercies abound). As the snow held me closer and closer in place against the curve of the earth here in the Hollow I was reminded of how often I can place the more-than-human world into a box. I imagine that “nature” is a beautiful backdrop, a sanctuary of sweet and cuddly creatures who want to swarm around me as if I were in a Disney movie. And then, She moves in a way that jostles me out of these limited narratives and reminds me of my smallness. This is a spiritual refrain that runs as far back as the book of Job when God appears to Job out of the whirlwind and asks a series of questions. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Can you lead leviathan on a string?” Or perhaps, most pointedly for today “Do you know where the snow comes from? Do you tell the snow when to fall or where to go?”
Rather than a comment on unworthiness or a criticism, these messages are a simple reminder of the pattern of the dance. Sitting in the place of snow, I feel a taste of the vastness of God’s presence. It is a reminder to me that I am held against the heart of God, nourished, challenged, and alive at the mercy (and there is such mercy) of the earth. Our dance partners in this life are vast and powerful. And, there is such an invitation to surrender and to follow where they lead.
Thomas Keating, a Christian monk, writes about the process of letting go as a practice of welcoming the day into your heart without judgment, the need to fix, or to wish for the situation to be different. The action of the welcoming prayer can be done in the span of a breath or as a part of a 20 minute meditation practice. The process involves greeting feelings and desires as they arise and simply letting them be what they are. Through this process the heart is reminded that God alone is our source of life, stillness, center, and power. What patterns, desires, or judgments do you substitute for God’s presence? Where might you let go and surrender to trust in God?