The Snow and the Silence

A deer stops in the yard after a fresh snowfall in Mineral Point.

There’s something so special about the silence that accompanies a snowfall–that deep hush that covers the world as thick, wet crystals cascade from the heavens. It is a sound all of its own, that silence. While I am not much of a snow person, I could sit in the winter quiet for hours.

When I lived in Madison, I would leave my window open on snowy nights just so I could be present to that silence. I would close my eyes and let my mind and body dissolve into the empty that was on the other side of the glass. It was just me and the nothingness, and somehow that was greater than all my worries, all my fears and anxieties combined. I was open–and it wasn’t even that I was listening–I was hearing.

Our last winter in the Madison house, an owl would regularly roost in our backyard. On those snow-filled nights, I would wake up in the depths of the early morning blackness. The moon would reflect off the white-covered ground, and the world would absolutely glow in a radiant, silver light. I would cozy up to the enlivening chill pouring through my window, and I would hear the hoot of the lone owl echo through the emptiness. Somehow the owls call filled the void but made it no less empty. We were together, in the sound of silence.

I still often let my mind take me to those silent nights…

There’s a serendipitous beauty in the combination of winter, darkness, and silence. In Western occultism, darkness (which is the virtue of the sunless north) and the winter belong to the element of Earth, and in some accounts, Earth corresponds to the power “to keep silent.” All of this combines for me in a moment of Mystery as I sit among the falling snow in the dark, winter lull. It reminds me that there is a power in hearing and a fullness in emptiness. To keep silent is not just to bite one’s tongue–to refrain from talking about one’s magic. It is also to be present and stable as the earth is. It is to allow something to spring from the nothingness and to witness what has already been put in motion. It is to be humble and to accept what is.

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