I notice a pirouette of snowflakes within the heavy, constant snowfall outside my window. As snow cakes upon the window ledge, the tree branches, and the ground, I feel a wintry mix of chill and delight. I sit in a puffy-comfy recliner which swallows me, not allowing my feet to touch the floor when I sit with my lower back against the busy, maroon-and-yellow floral pattern. The dangling feet, the tight grip surrounding my coffee, the safety of the dimly lit room in the early morning buildup of prayer before the school day—all of which combine into a sense of peace, but a peace before the dive into yet another day.
Looking at the snowfall, I think of my students. I wonder how many silent prayers of desperation happened last night and this morning—Lord, please, a snow day!!! It’s not going to happen, but perhaps we’ll have a slight delay to account for the dangerous condition of the roads. I have several sections of classes, all prepared, but I wonder about adjusting those lesson plans to account for the heart-wrenching injustice the students will carry into the day. I take a sip of the coffee, and I continue praying.
A few emails need attention before the first bell rings, and I’m dreading them. One to a student asking for extra credit. One to parent expressing my concern over the student’s anxiety and well being. One to a group of my friends, apologizing that I’ll not be able to join them for a little reunion. Though in total the emails will only take ten minutes, they feel weighty and pressing.
Later in the day, I have a difficult conversation scheduled. It’ll go fine. Stop worrying. And even if that line of thinking is true, I can’t help but momentarily join my students in their desperate prayers that the snow will cancel the meeting—Lord, please, a snow day!!! It’s not going to happen, but perhaps my nerves will settle a little by this afternoon. If nothing else, I have this quiet moment now.
The swirling, tumbling flakes and chunks of snow dance with each gust. They are totally at the mercy of an unseen wind, unfelt from the comfort of my cup of coffee and cozy chair. Do they know what they are doing? Do they worry about their falling? Do they smile with the adventure of the unknown?
It’s a ridiculous line of questioning, and I chuckle at the idea of a falling snowflake being self-aware of its mysterious journey. It’s a private joke, shared between me and a blizzard in a moment of juxtaposed stillness and furious flurry. Yet, that moment lands, and a noiseless calm envelops the scene on either side of the window pane.
The tree branches outside the window look fake with their inches of powder resting precariously on tiny pine nettles; they’re just waiting for a gust of wind or bird or some other small disturbance to bring the snow cascading down. As I take another sip of coffee, I imagine myself throwing a rogue snowball as I walk to school later, just to watch the explosive poof proceeding a waterfall of glittering white.
It’s a silly thought, but as my feet dangle in my chair, I feel childlike. As I pray, I feel small at the approaching day and tasks. And, I feel strangely at peace as I watch the silence of the snow.
As a young Jesuit, I often feel enormous pressure to describe prayer. Whether it’s the challenge to articulate the dynamics or intricacies or styles of prayer, they all seem inadequate to simply sitting in the silence of a snowfall with my cup of coffee in the morning, with God.
I’d love to claim the mystical or the wondrous, but honestly most of the time all I can claim is that I chuckled with God about some small inside joke—wondering what the snow thinks as it falls, what a perfectly launched snowball might do, whether flakes of snow can pirouette or pas de chat or arabesque… It’s nothing spectacular, nothing audacious, nothing heavily theological or miraculous.
And yet, that simple falling, dancing snow tumbling through the air in the quiet moments of the morning, guided by some sort of ineffable logic… Well, that’s how I feel at times in my life. When I allow that to pervade my morning coffee with God, it’s the best prayer I have.
As the coffee drains to its dregs, and the sun begins to peak over the hills causing diamond-esque glimmers in the snow, I make the Sign of the Cross and stand up from the coziness of the chair. It’s time to dive into the snow, into the workday, and into the schedule of unknowns. Despite the mystery of what it holds, the day feels a little more manageable but not because of some grand insight or encounter. Rather, something slight, hushed, and gentle has happened. It’s nothing more than a cup of coffee, the snowfall, and a rocking chair, but maybe that’s enough of a prayer in the snowstorm of life.