Snow now blankets the ground in New Hampshire. The maple and birch trees are bare of leaves but full of snow. The air is crisp and cold. When it’s snowing, the air has a kind of sound that is difficult to describe. It’s got a texture to it as if someone were brushing the air with a stiff brush. Other sounds seem to recede into the background, and I’m left to listen to the snowflakes as they fall. It’s amazing how peaceful and tranquil it can be.

It has snowed twice this past week, accumulating in total around ten inches of snow. Snow banks along the road are now two to three feet high. I have been busy with my self-pushing electric snowblower, clearing our driveway, which runs up hill from the street towards our house.

More snow is expected today, so I’ll be busy. I don’t mind the work. In fact, I enjoy it. Some people curse the snow and can’t wait to be rid of it. Not me, I love it. 

Now that I’m retired, I don’t have to worry about getting to work on time. Even so, people in New Hampshire are used to dealing with snow and for the most part are nonchalant about it. What I like most about snow on the ground and in the trees, apart from its beauty, is its contrast with the heat of the summer months. The change of the seasons, each with its own characteristics, adds variation in the passage of the year such that each day does not pass with relentless uniformity. Each day has its special treasures for us to discover. Weather comes and goes, and if we can move with the flow, we can enjoy the riches that each day has to offer. 

I’m getting ready for a walk outside later today and I’m looking forward to hearing the bristling sound of snow falling, the sound of peace and calm. Then I’ll be back going up and down the driveway with my snowblower.


selective focus photo of magnifying glass
Photo by fotografierende on

“…And take upon’s the mystery of things as if we were God’s spies…”  Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3.

This line from Shakespeare points to an important dimension of human life. Life is filled with mystery and we, like spies, must search out small hints and clues to its variegated facets and meanings.

I’m glad that living is like that. I like mystery. At times it seems that it would be wonderful to know and understand everything, but then I realize that if it were so, I would be bored. There is always something to learn, and there is always room to grow.  There is always a risk that as I learn and grow that I may change. Although that is not always a comforting prospect, I enjoy the pursuit of wisdom and the gradual unfolding of insight it brings.

Perhaps the reason I like to read mystery novels is that they, like any mystery, are full of clues that, with a little insight and the right perspective, become clear. When solved, the mystery, like the pieces of a puzzle, fits together to form a coherent picture. Half the fun, of course, is to see if I can figure out what is going on in the story before the author clearly spells it out for me.

The world isn’t as neat as a puzzle–its pieces don’t always seem to fit together.  It’s hard to get that perfect perspective of a perfect fit.

All of us are like spies—God’s spies. We are spies in pursuit of God’s trail. God, full of grace and mystery, leaves us with plenty of clues, signposts, and markers. We can never fully understand them, but for a start, we can embrace the mystery and take it upon us.  Look for the clues of God’s grace all around you and become one of God’s spies, praying that your eyes be opened and that the path before you be illumined.


snow covered mountain during sunrise
Photo by Sagui Andrea on
“A mind too active is no mind at all; the deep eye sees the shimmer on the stone….”  When my mind starts to overload, I often recite these words of the American poet Theodore Roethke.  I can become so busy — even obsessed with being busy all the time — that my eyes are closed to the world and all its wonders around me.

I often try consciously to cultivate “the deep eye”, to look closely at things around me so as to see “the shimmer on the stone.” One day, a good many years ago, I planned to cut down a dead elm tree aside a long, wooded, dirt and gravel driveway by a house in the Adirondacks. I was looking forward to the raw power of the chainsaw and its rich throaty sound. The chainsaw had other ideas; it wouldn’t start. Deep down I was half relieved. Undaunted, I set off alone, with a rather dull ax slung over my shoulder, down the driveway to the fated elm tree.

I began chopping “at” the tree. It was muggy and there I stood, sweaty, buzzed by bees and mosquitoes, trying to avoid the poison ivy, but exhilarated nonetheless.

As a priest I don’t often see the results of my work. How people are affected by what I say in the pulpit or in counseling is something almost impossible to measure. I could see the tree however gradually being chipped away. Professional woodcutters might not have liked my style—the cut looked like a mangled beaver’s cut—but nonetheless the tree fell with a crash and half way down, just for the effect, I cried out, “Timber!” My hands were blistered and they ached as I de-limbed the tree, but I was happy. I noticed the rings on the wood, the smell of freshly cut timber, and the grape vine loaded with grapes that had hung in the branches of that elm tree.

What is called “contemplation” in religious circles is really just what we might call “noticing” — noticing the little things around us, finding God in them, and thanking God for them. The “deep eye” is something most of us have to cultivate. Take the time to look for “the shimmer on the stone?” I find that when I do, the rest of the day is never quite the same.

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