Springtime in the Rockies is characterized by nothing if not snow, and yesterday was a bountiful testament. I could feel it in the light seeping though my bedroom window as I stirred and stretched –following the example of my wise cats — then picked my way gingerly down the steep bedroom stairs to see what Nature had delivered.
Snow, snow, snow. A half-foot of wet, white and heavy. Oh, happy day!
I have lived a good many years in the Upper Midwest and know that, in many parts of the country, snow at this time of year is a weariness, an ache in bones hungry for Spring. But here in Colorado — a land of sunshine and extremes — it’s a magical interlude, a bright blanket of cold that punctuates an abundance of mild, sun-drenched days.
It was still dark when I arose yesterday, so I slipped into my boots and barn coat and set out through the snow to re-stock the feeders and clear the deck so I could scatter birdseed. The wild ones were still cloistered deep within the shelter of evergreens, but they would be here soon, and hungry: the chickadees and juncos, the finches and robins, the nuthatches and woodpeckers.
There was still time before daybreak for human sustenance — a cup of redolent dark roast, mellowed with half-and-half — and then it was time: On with the running shoes and out the door to the Garden of the Gods, a glorious landscape of towering sandstone formations a scant half-mile from my home.
It was slow going; I was out early enough to be breaking trail much of the way, though I could see where deer had passed. Everywhere, the trees were heavy with snow, yet the birds sang wildly, proclaiming Spring:
Robins flushed from junipers as I approached, triggering a powdery shower of snow; they congregated loosely on the largely deserted roads, gathering sand and grit for their gizzards, necessary to digest whatever food they could scrounge until the snow again receded.
The Garden’s burnt sienna sandstone was vibrant beneath a heavy white quilt; the sun poked through a grey curtain of sky like a penlight. Every step was an effort, but also a softness; I could not stop smiling. And I saw my own happiness mirrored in the wonderstruck faces of the few people I encountered who had also ventured out early. We exchanged idiot grins and exclaimed about the beauty.
“Happy Easter!” one man called after me as I ran past. “Happy Easter!” I called back over my shoulder.
As I moved away, I had an insane impulse to add, “Praise Jesus!” As if I were still the callow born-again Christian of my late teens, and not a middle-aged Buddhist obviously giddy with endorphins.
Yet there it was: the impulse to praise. Not just the beauty around us, here every day. But this rarer thing: the vision to see, the ears to hear. The lifting of the veil, an experience of grace in which the holiness within us and the holiness in the world recognize and sing to each other. Call it Christ nature, or Buddha nature. Call it presence; call it love.
My favorite part of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple — written as a series of letters — explains the book’s title. Shug is explaining to Celie, the story’s protagonist, her idea of God.
I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it … People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.
I thought of that as I ran through the Garden, of how the mysterious creative force that moves all around and in us is ever ready to please us. How it waits always on our attention, waits for us to see, to hear, to attend to this moment. Waits for us to understand that every hallelujah requires not only the wonder of this life, but the praise of our presence.
I was tired by the time I got home, those six hilly miles suffusing my body. My shoes were caked with snow.
My head, too, was heavily frosted.
But I was still smiling. And still feeling that sense of wonder, of gratitude, of praise. Still feeling what Celie felt as she began her last letter in The Color Purple, understanding, finally, to whom she wrote:
Dear God. Dear stars, dear trees, dear sky, dear peoples. Dear Everything.