The fields of dormant wildflowers and bramble wait for the mud to freeze and the snow to fall so that the tracks of the birds, the mice, the fox, the deer can be seen by the dawn’s first rays.
Hurry, because this is the best time to come. This is the sunrise service to attend on bended knee. Bend your head as well; look upon the glistening whiteness that is the earth. It is only there in your crouch that you can see which way the mouse scurried across the meadow. Here you can ask yourself some of the greatest questions of the cosmos. Where was he going in such a hurry? Why wasn’t he holed up with the fluff of the milkweed for his winter bed? The deer track is half-filled with the last of the night’s snow. Why was she walking in the dark coldness of the predawn hours? Was it to search for her fawn? Was she looking for a better shelter from the wind? Was she afraid? Desperate? Or, simply, alive?
Here in your mood of prayer you can see that the mysteries of the earth are as fascinating as any that you may find elsewhere. Are not the answers to your questions a sort of faith and hope? You cannot know the answers to your questions-but you can find comfort in knowing that the animals are there, the snow is there, wetting your knee, your frozen breath is there, visible in the freezing air.
Standing amidst the snow at dawn is the time when you can pretend. Pretend that the world is new, fresh, clean. Snow in the dawn’s light blinds you with its hope, providing an ephemeral promise that today will be a day that you will glimpse life through the eyes of the creatures whose tracks you see weaving amongst the grasses and into the protection of the brambles. Maybe today you can find the belief that this is all that is needed.
Yes, you might be cold. You will want to hurry back to your warm car, a dry pair of pants, maybe something fleece. And coffee. Maybe next time you should bring some. And bring something water proof, maybe a small tarp. Come alone; leave your loved ones in their warm beds.
Next time you come, come when it is still snowing. Find your own shelter. Try not to disturb the animal that may be there before you. Put down your tarp. Open your thermos of coffee or sip from your travel mug. Be still. Be quiet. Let the snow cover your eyelashes. Let your nose tingle and your ears become red. Wait.
If you are lucky, she will come, walking gingerly, raising her hoofs daintily, one by one out of the snow for her audience of one, you. The doe may startle if she smells you; don’t move, watch. Imagine what she must be thinking. What are you? Why are you out here reveling in the stillness of the dawn? Why are you sitting there in the falling snow witnessing a scene of unending heartache? Because you know that you cannot improve upon this scene. Nothing man can do would improve upon this scene of simple splendor. You will hurt because you know that you will need to leave, disturbing the deer, disturbing your peace.
You will leave and the next person to come to this meadow of snow will see your footprints and wonder who was here. They will wonder why this person walked in this direction. They will wonder at his destination.