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Reflections on Snowy Stillness

January 2nd, 2022 by dk

If we all share one daily challenge, it’s to enjoy each season of our life. Mastery in one season gives us no boost in the next. Just as we become experts at climbing trees, we decide we’d rather sit under one with a romantic partner. Marriage, family, and career don’t leave much time for sitting under trees.

Now I’m watching the trees around me — some I planted myself — marveling at their stature. They invite tree-climbing children now. Their bark has slowly grown over any carved initials. How many hours did I spend raking their leaves?

My son’s young family is feeling the daze of the holidays. I’m enjoying my quietude just a few miles away. As they play with their children, equipping and protecting the future that’s entrusted to them, I sit — grateful to see the future in good hands. They’re making memories. I’m having a few.

My favorite circus act as a child featured porcelain plates, spun and placed on slender sticks. The performer wiggled the stick to speed the spin, added a second spinning plate on a second stick, then a third, then a fourth. Can he spin a dozen plates without breaking any? (This may have been the act that originated the warning, “Kids, don’t try this at home!”)

The audience alternated between hush and cheer, inhaling and exhaling, warning the performer which plate was wobbling off its stick, reeling toward wreckage. He’d save that plate and set it spinning while other plates slowed precariously. There was no time for satisfaction.

Isn’t that what life felt like during those middle decades, setting things in motion, watching a dozen details with only two eyes? Slowing down or pausing to reflect could put it all in peril. We abandoned Sabbath as an artifact of pre-industry. Holidays were marked red on calendars, but we no longer stopped. We filled them with festive frenzy.

Truth be told, I never cared much for holidays. I got chickenpox when I was five on the day before Labor Day. It was our turn that year to host the neighborhood BBQ. I was quarantined behind the storm door, watching others cavort in my yard while I was alone in the kitchen. I suppose I never recovered.

I chose quietude this Christmas, wishing for a layer of snow to muffle each motion. The next morning my gift arrived, as if delayed by supply chain issues. Thank goodness Sunday deliveries are now a thing. What a perfect weekend for the world to stop spinning!

I played a smidgeon of music, but mostly I enjoyed the silence. I wanted to disarm my wind chimes, but couldn’t figure out how. The chimes baffled me, instead of the other way around.

I made peace with the chimes, telling myself that even silence needs a soundtrack. Their dulcet tones gave voice to the wind. When the chimes stopped, they declared stillness. And stillness is worth knowing in this season of life. It’s more than miles away from my grandchildren, but it will come their way eventually. And so we hope.

If the circus performer was lucky and good, he’d survey his plates all spinning, spread his arm for applause, take the quickest bow, and then race to snatch each plate from fate. Only then could he stop to enjoy the cheers. Only then could the crowd stop holding its breath. Performers understand that hush is a cheer without noise.

Hush fills this moment and this season. It feels like that final held breath, just as the last plate is secured — that moment when faces shift from worry to delight. He did it! Success! Everything is safe!

As I write this, it’s still snowing. It’s snowing stillness. No one has anywhere to go. Everything we need is right here. “It’s enough,” the world whispers. We hush and we cheer for new performers — inhaling, exhaling — happy to be still, happy to still be.

In the hushed stillness, I can hear the silent soundtrack. Life carries on. One day I’ll be what it carries, but not yet. Questions still abound. What is still needed? What can still be known? Ask those who are still with us. This is their season too.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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