Embracing the 'Beast from the East': Why snow days are good for us

Published 01 March 2018

I could hear that it had happened from the earliest moment of waking. The faint darts of light hinted at it, but spoke more quietly than the muffled sense of neighbourhood noise that could only mean one thing.

SNOW!

I could write lyrically about how it draws me back to the nostalgia of a childhood playing with bears in an enchanted forest as snow gently fell and Mr Tumnus, from C S Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia played his pipes. But that would be a fallacy because it seems to me that the prospect of snow is, when fully embraced, much more fun as a grown up.

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I think I saw the first hopeful tweet on Sunday afternoon: 'Could it be a snow day?'. I suspect it was from a teacher, for which of us has not dreaded the year nine group who have arrived on the third floor fully loaded with small bombs of dirty ice.

The excitement has soon spread, people mesmerised by the falling flakes, wondering at what moment they can draw stumps and say that we are cancelling the meeting or service or outdoor BBQ.

Of course there are cynics: us hardy northern types mocking the soft southerners caught out by half an inch of drifty snow as we hang out our washing and wear shorts. More seriously, there are those for whom this late snow is a real risk; my colleagues in the Dales will have sheep farmers and their lambing ewes very much in mind.

For urbanites the statisticians will bemoan how much productivity has been impacted by inclement weather and in a month's time we will hear that avocado sales have dropped as people have hunkered down with some kind of suet-based warming food.

But in the midst of all this I wonder if there is a deeper and somehow better invitation to embrace all that these snowy days offer.

It seems to me that we are wired to thrive with life rhythms. The command to Sabbath is at the heart of God's relationship with covenanted people; that we understand that in our creativity and createdness, rest and being is as essential as activity and doing.

And yet we reject this invite so readily. We work in the dark (both tangibly and metaphorically), pushing ourselves harder and harder with less and less productivity. Even this morning (as I write in my pyjamas on the sofa) people will be hauling themselves towards offices in dedication to a goal that is probably not that important.

We do that because we are taught to master creation (rather than the creation mandate to steward it). Snow is one of the few things that the British have wonderfully failed at mastering and for that we can be grateful. It reminds us that when it comes to it, we are not in charge of creation; we are to work with it as we seek to manifest God's glory.

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Snow also offers us the dilemma of which master we serve. Yes, our earthly bosses, clients, patients and parishioners can all claim our time — but there is a quieter whisper. I like to envisage it as the whisper that can be heard through the muffled acoustic of snow, inviting us only to do that which is life saving or giving.

Snow days offer us an invitation to stop. They give us the excuse that we so often need. They enforce a different pace that we run from as a society. Perhaps its OK just to embrace it.

Rev Jude Smith is the team rector of Moor Allerton and Shadwell in North Leeds. Follow her on Twitter @gingervicar

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