The purity of the snow – and an ultrasound image

By Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher, Clarion Herald

In the middle of peer review, a group of my students began gesturing and excitedly talking in hushed tones. They were nearest the windows. It was my second-to-last class of the day, in what felt like an over-heated sauna, and I was exhausted. 

Knowing that no one’s paper could cause that much excitement, I glanced toward the window. It was snowing. But not just a gently falling snow. It seemed to be coming down in all directions. As my later class would inform me, it was as though the snow was purposely attacking the humans trudging through the campus. It seemed turbulent, and yet, I knew as soon as I stepped outside, the silence that always accompanied a snowfall would be penetrating.

Walking through the campus clock tower between classes, it was astounding to hear the quiet and feel the sense of peace and calm enveloping the busy campus. The usual crowding of students accompanied me, but their voices seemed drowned out by the quietly falling, natural sound dampener. 

As I was walking, I recalled my students’ looks of excitement. And I realized in that moment that it was one of the things that I would miss most as I journey back to the south in the fall. 

The pitter-patter, or the mighty deluge, of rain would never create that same feeling of pleasure. Nor would it generate the same overwhelming sense of renewal. 

As the powdery whiteness blankets the grass and city streets, as long as I’m indoors and not driving through it, I always think of a blank canvas. The snow provides a clear image of regeneration; a starting over with a clean slate. Never mind the sludgy grayness that accumulates the next day. For a moment, covered in white, all seems new. All seems filled with promise and optimism.

I was trying to describe that sentiment to my husband, in the days before the snowfall. But the image – or the words – wouldn’t come. Instead, as we watched the latest ultrasound and saw Baby A turbulently flopping around attempting to get comfortable, there were no words. As the baby’s thumb made its way to the tiny mouth, it seemed that Baby A was finally comfortable. But no – a flailing of the legs, and suddenly we saw a small shift in the membrane separating the babies. Baby B lay silently, taking it all in, enduring the wrestling of his or her sibling. 

A small, moving snapshot into the wondrous changes occurring within. Later, as my husband was recalling his enthusiasm, I couldn’t find the right image to describe my own thoughts. But later, as I recalled the glimmer of excitement in my classroom as my students undoubtedly hoped for the cancellation of classes, I was able to place my own emotions.

The purity of the snow, tinged with the promise of anticipation and renewal. That was the language for which I had been searching. Purity. Baptism. Anticipation. And threading all of those emotions together was gratitude – gratitude for the newness of life and gratitude to God, who makes all things possible. 

Dr. Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at hbozantwitcher@clarionherald.org.

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