So, as I am sure you are aware, it rained on Christmas Day.
I know that Bing taught us to dream of a White Christmas, but none of us had any idea how to deal with a wet one. I stood in my parents’ house, looking out over the deck and watched the rain fall, torrential rain, and the street slowly fill with water since the storm drains were blocked.
I was planning on staying and celebrating a bit longer than I did, but I wanted to head back home before the rain turned to the inevitable ice. It did freeze over, of course, and it was just as bad as I expected it to be; as we all did.
As the sun set and the Christmas lights in our neighborhoods slowly came on, we stood in our homes and watched the ice build and listened to the flash flood warnings which punctuated our Christmas music. It was surreal.
The next day was spent in Aberdeen, and in most of east river South Dakota, trying to get some ice melt as it was being sold out in every store. I stood, carefully stood, on the sidewalk, sprinkling the ice melt and wondering if it would make any difference.
The Monday after Christmas was the first day in a very long time that the dogs did not get a run, and no matter how much I tried to explain the situation to them, they didn’t seem to care. So I got to face a day of ineffectual ice melt outside and cranky labs inside; an inauspicious start to the Christmas season to be sure, but I took comfort in the fact I was not suffering alone.
Tuesday was much the same, with the exception that the dogs were taken out for their walks. I drove them out to the fairgrounds and it looked like the Odde Ice Center had decided to expand, stretching out the ice rink 300 yards in all directions. The roads, ditches and grounds were one sheet of ice. The dogs slipped and ran and I did a penguin walk for a while, hoping the wind didn’t knock me over.
Then it was home for more ice chipping, more salting and more attempts to stay upright as I worked the sidewalks. I failed, twice. This was also the day I started praying that things would be clear enough for the weekend Masses.
Wednesday…exactly the same as Tuesday.
Then on Thursday, the fifth Day of Christmas, my True Love gave me to me something spectacular. I took the dogs out earlier than usual for their walk around the fairgrounds and the sun was making its slow rise behind the trees into a clear sky. The dogs were running and I was moving a bit faster on the ice after days of practice, the air was crisp and cold, but not arctic, so the hood on my parka was back a bit more as I walked.
Then the sun rose yellow and bright over the grove of trees and it hit the ice and it took my breath away. I stopped in my ice track and leaned on my walking stick and just looked in awe as the light and the ice turned the world into crystal. The crystal world around me was blinding in its beauty and seemed so fragile, a gift only the light dancing on the ice could bring about.
As I stood there, leaning on my staff, the dogs oblivious but enjoying their run, I could not help but ponder the beauty around me. It had been there all the time of course, but I was too caught up the last days with ice melt and shovels and the problems and concerns of clearing the ice to pause and notice the beauty only the ice could bring around me.
That beauty didn’t care about my problems or concerns, it didn’t care that it was hard to drive, that the walks hard to keep clear, that there were power outages all over the northeast part of our state, those problems were ours; the beauty simply was, and was beyond such problems. That is the nature of beauty.
As I stood there in awe, I realized that I was given an opportunity to choose, as I always have the opportunity to choose. I could keep my eyes down and focus on what concerns me, my problems and concerns, or I could lift my eyes and see that which transcends me. The beauty reminded me that, contrary to what I may believe, my problems and concerns are not the most important things in the world; I am not the axis upon which the universe revolves.
It’s hard to remember that sometimes, but when I do, the beauty around me can put everything else into perspective and simply remind me to just be, be alive, be open and transformed. I know that I will live my life back and forth, between the beauty and the mundane, and because of that, the choice will always be there; and there, in the choosing is the mystery of God.
What we choose is the difference between life and the fullness of life; and it is the first step toward holiness.