It’s a grey February day and I’ve just arrived home from work. I gaze out the window that opens to the yard and see a lone squirrel trying valiantly to find some water in the frozen birdbath. No other critters are in sight. It’s as if this bone-chilling cold is not fit for flights of fancy or casual foraging—only the activities necessary to sustain life.
My observation reminds me of an article I read about winter. The author suggests that every season, no matter how we engage it, invites us to see with new eyes—to be open to a new perspective on what the poet Mary Oliver calls “the daily presentations.”
Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton often prefaced his observations on life and faith with a view of his landscape. He says, “Our mentioning of the weather—our perfunctory observations on what kind of day it is—are perhaps not idle. Perhaps we have a deep and legitimate need to know in our entire being what the day is like, to see it and to feel it, to know how the sky is grey, paler in the south, with patches of blue in the southwest, with snow on the ground, the thermometer at 18, the cold wind making your ears ache. . . . [A] day in which I have not shared truly in all this is no day at all. It is certainly part of my life of prayer.”
This day I’ve come home to an empty house—empty except for my dog and my elderly cat, who interprets my entrance as his meal ticket and begins his vocal request. The animals, unlike me, have spent their day in quiet slumber, waiting for a human to return and to reward them for their patient endurance.
I move into this space with joy. I’m thankful for the warmth and quiet of the house and the subtle winter light that fills the room with an understated abundance. Although many people I know struggle with this season, I love its unassuming hue. It fits my nature; it’s not splashy and conversational but rather demure and soft-spoken.
The garlic mashed potatoes I’ve begun to cook infuse the air with their fragrance and will soon provide me with their creamy sustenance. The dog awaits his trip to the park. Upon reflection, these simple events and the inside and outside landscape are like still-life paintings: moments in time that contain the sacramental mystery of God’s presence through their simple beauty. In this time and place, I am aware of my body and my soul.
Both are amply fed.