Grits and Purls

Spinning yarns about the grit of life

The snow blew cold across the earth
A solid blanket of white
Nothing living seemed to stir
No visitors to tame the night

I wrote those words a long time ago—long before I moved from the Southeast to the Midwest, long before I had ever experienced a blizzard. Yet somehow I managed to capture the essence of whiteout.

What is it about a visitor that tames the night? What is it about sharing a hot cup of coffee and some freshly baked bread that makes the wind less fierce and the air a little warmer?

When I lived in Sioux City, IA, the Alberta Clippers would come blasting down from Canada with nothing in their way to stop the fierce winds and driving snow. My cats were my companionship on those wild and lonely snowy evenings. Oh, how I would have welcomed a visitor to warm the air with hot cocoa, conversation and cookies.

The blizzard that we experienced December 11 and 12, 2010, was no different. With the first on/off of the power that caused the fire alarms to beep around midnight, I woke. Confused at first, I wandered the house, checking the carbon monoxide detector and various alarms in the basement, all in an attempt to figure out what alarm had aroused me, but no one else, from sleep. In the dark I looked out at the blowing snow, and I listened to the wind beat against the windows and doors, rattling vents on the roof. A second power blip and a few beeps of the fire alarms made suddenly clear what had happened. It was a wild night. My husband and daughter, for now, slept soundly, I gazed at the storm outside, glad I was inside, but restless and antsy, wishing I had someone to talk to.

Another power blip, this time the beeping alarms and the angry winds roused my daughter who cried for me. I went to her bedroom and she asked me what the noises were. I explained that we were having a very bad snow storm, called a blizzard, and what she heard was the wind driving the snow across the sky. We talked a little. I held her and she fell asleep in my arms. And, for a little while, even with the storm roaring outside, the night was tamed—tamed by a little conversation between a mother and daughter. And pretty soon, calmed by the sound of my daughter’s regular breathing, I too fell asleep against the backdrop of the storm.

Life is full of blizzards, literal and figurative. Blizzards of power grabs in the work place or church. Blizzards of medical crises. Blizzards of financial woes. Blizzards of loss. Blizzards of depression or anger or sadness. In all of these storms winds rage and buffet the structures we have built around ourselves. Alarms go off in the middle of the night, and sometimes we wander restlessly trying to figure out what the alarms are. But it doesn’t matter what the nature of the blizzard, the soul is calmed; the heart is comforted when we share ourselves with another person, when we let a visitor in to tame the night.

The holidays can be especially troubling and the blizzards particularly fierce, making it more difficult than ever to tame the night. But reaching out to others, finding the visitor, whether it’s by seeking help or seeking to give help, can calm the storm and tame the night.

May you find your visitor and have a peaceful and joyous holiday.

© 2010 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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