30 December 2000

Ice Crystals

contributed by Kay Goodnow
30 December 2000

Winter has always been my least favorite time of year! I attribute my dislike for winter's darker days and cold weather to the simple fact that I was born in July.

People from more northern climates laugh at me, and say that winter in Kansas City is really mild. Well, it’s cold enough for me! I do not like to drive, or even walk, on ice. Snow is snow. Ice, on the other hand, is entirely something else. Ice can be treacherous. Life is precious, in my opinion, and should not be squandered while trying to teach an automobile how to figure skate. This last requires an incredible amount of energy, laced with adrenalin, and leaves me feeling very tired.

I detest and deplore winter. I do not like to wear a coat. I do not like coping with other people's germs, flu, colds and pneumonia. I am aware that good old hard freezes sometimes rid my world of germs, allergies, and other complications, and I justify the existence of winter that way. But I don't like it and I never have.

Years ago, when I was growing up in the Catholic-Episcopal tradition, those who were formulating my conscience instilled in it an anomaly they called "hell," and it was full of eternal fire and brimstone. If, they told me, I didn’t do things the way they wanted them done, I would burn forever. I never told them, but this didn’t frighten me nearly as much as it would have had they threatened me with a hell full of ice, snow and northwest winds.

I have seven excellent reasons why I cannot escape to a warmer climate, and they are called "grandchildren." But every year, in November, as the days get shorter, I grouse about moving south and every year I gear up for the reality of another wintry existence in Kansas City. As the days fade from the beauty of fall into the harsh and often dark days of winter I yearn for the sun. On the first day of winter I make a note in my memory unit that we have already reached the shortest day of the year and that from that day forward we are, at least, on the uphill side of spring. This makes me feel better.

On December 27, 2000, I was driving south to Spring Hill, on my way to work. It was a sunny day with no wind but it was very cold. Heading south on Metcalf I noticed that even though the sun was bright, there was fog. I thought that was unusual. I turned west on 199th Street and noted immediately that where the sun touched the snow the light was incredibly bright, sparkling like millions of diamonds. It was beautiful and I slowed the van to better revel in this glory. With the sun at my back and an intense feeling of well being, I caught myself breathing a ‘thank you’ for this wonderful serenity. I admitted to myself that even if it was winter, this was one of the most beautiful days I had ever seen.

I turned south again on 169 Highway and then realized that what I had believed to be fog was glistening, shimmering, tumbling, moving slowly as though in freefall. It wasn’t fog at all. It was ice crystals, millions of them, and although they were moving they were not falling, they were drifting. At that moment I wished that I had a camera with me. This was one picture that demanded to be shot in black and white to capture the stark, cold, brilliant reflection of the sun. I sighed. I breathed another thank you, and I said "Father, I see the beauty and I feel such peace and I admit that all of Your creations are beautiful!" For me, this was a major concession. (I hate winter!) Still, I was unprepared for what would follow.

I had to go west on 223rd Street for about one block and then turned south again, into the subdivision. I had to pull over to the (buried) curb and stop the van. Off at a distance, in the southeastern sky, there was the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. Ice crystals shrouded its bases so that it had no real beginning and no end. Its colors were true to the more traditional rainbow, but it was more muted, quieter somehow, and starkly magnificent. It sparkled with energy and life force. It had a powerful effect on me and I felt my own tears as I wondered if I would even be brave enough to mention it to other people when I saw them. I wondered, too, if I had imagined it.

I remembered another scene from long ago. While flying to San Francisco, the plane approached the Grand Canyon and the pilot obligingly flew over the crater. It was sunset. The sky and the clouds were a golden rose tinged with fairy dust (those mite like particles that parachute from the sky) and the crater was reflecting those same colors and light. It took my breath away and I didn’t realize that tears had come until I felt them. I have never forgotten the awe, the reverence I felt at that moment. And until the other day, I had not felt them again.

On the outer perimeters of the subdivision, where commercial construction is in progress, the work areas are protected by weather fences. When I glanced at them I realized that I was looking at miles of crystal squares so brilliant that they were blinding. The ice on the trees and shrubs, everywhere I looked, shone with light and color.

I gave up. "This is a day that the Lord has made, " I intoned in my Church-of-Kay style, "I rejoice and am happy in it!" Then God, as always, had the last word. As I turned once again to watch the rainbow fade and then disappear completely into the mist, He said, "I am the Alpha and I am the Omega!"
I was 15 minutes late arriving at the model home. The general foreman was there and the first thing he asked me was if I was having problems with the van. He had seen me parked on the crest and was just about to come out to meet me when he saw me driving again. I smiled. "No," I answered, warmed that he even cared, "I was just admiring the scenery!"

We are still experiencing unusually cold weather. We still have gusting winds. We have snow showers and, if the overly dramatic weather forecasters are to be believed, there is no relief in sight. I tell myself that that’s just the way it is. I tell myself that it’s only a matter of time until spring arrives in all her glory. I tell myself that I can take it, and, secretly, I believe that if I am brave enough to face it, I might one day see this wonder again. After all, some people live a whole lifetime and never see or feel the beauty of this world. I am lucky, God has spoiled me again. I have seen and felt it twice.

Happy New Year! May this year of the millennium bring peace, joy, warmth, light, love and all the beauty of life! May you have thousands more!

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