Thursday, March 7, 2013

dashing through the snow

I drove back from Higganum tonight after the Cluster book group through the snow.

In the book group, we are reading chapters from the stuff I've been writing about my ministry and memories. It's been great. I talk to much, I think, but it is wonderful to hear others react to my writing. It's inspiring me to get back to it (instead of playing 20 games of Hearts a day) and finishing it, if  'finish' is something I would ever get too with memories of 38 years of being a priest. My title for the whole mess is "Farther Along" from an old hymn. (One of the lines is "Farther along we'll know all about it, farther along we'll understand why. Cheer up my brother, walk in the sunlight, we'll understand it all by and by." To sing that like I remember it you must make 'it' come out 'hit' and make 'why' into two syllables.) But Ann Overton, who has read the whole mess and agreed to help me edit it if I ever get to a stopping place, wants to call it: "Tend the Fire, Tell the Story and Pass the Wine"--which is a metaphor from the chapter we read tonight called "Job Description" where I try to distinguish that being a priest is much more about 'being' than 'doing'.

The weather forecast was grim, but I needed to see a man in the hospital in Middletown, which is only 6 or 7 miles from Higganum so I made the journey. Those hearty souls that showed up and I discussed what we all agreed was a rather odd attitude in Connecticut about snow, considering that Connecticut has always been in New England and in New England, snow happens. I'm constantly amazed at how a few inches of snow closes schools and causes an endless crawl line at the bottom of the TV about all the events that are cancelled. It's New England. It snows here. Get used to it.

Perhaps it is the fact that CT is the southernmost state in New England so we think a bit like people in Baltimore and DC and Richmond where 2 inches of snow shuts down the city's. I remember when I was going to Virginia Seminary, Alexandria didn't even own snow plow trucks, they rented them from other towns. So, snow in Alexandria had to stay put until other towns had cleared their roads.

At any rate, people in Vermont and New Hampshire and Maine and Massachusetts do much better wit snow than folks in the Nutmeg state. They seem to relish it--like Minnesota does, according to Prairie Home Companion.

Where I grew up, in the mountains of southern West Virginia, it snowed like crazy. And nothing much stopped. People put on chains and drove across Peel Chestnut Mountain or Elkhorn Mountain to get to Bluefield to go shopping or see a movie. I learned to drive with chains on. So I think nothing of driving in snow. I remember lots of 8 a.m. services at St. John's in Waterbury when I invited the congregation up into the chancel to sit in the choir stalls and their wasn't more than an inch or so on the roads. Most winters when I was a high school student, there would be a couple dozen days when the school bus that took me 9 miles from Anawalt to Gary around really steep and sharp curves, would go with chains on all 8 wheels. I know my memory isn't what it used to be, but I can't recall the concept "snow days" from my childhood.

Rt. 9, I-91 and I-691 were all snow covered and mostly only one lane--the one the previous vehicles had driven in. But what is usually a 35 minute drive was only 45 or 50 minutes, and though I could hardly see from time to time, you just follow the taillights ahead of you and they'll lead you home.

I bet Cheshire's schools will either be cancelled or delayed tomorrow and it's mostly flat here and the snow plows will have the main roads cleared by 6 am or so.

Now, a decade or so ago, I was driving on a Sunday afternoon, through snow to New Haven on I-91 to do a service at the Episcopal Church at Yale and had a wreck. But it was because I got off the steep exit that had cold air beneath it and was solid ice. I broke the two bones in my left arm--is it the radius and the ulna?--in a whole bunch of places and now have two titanium bars in my forearm where solid bone used to be (and, yes, my life flashed before me as I slid....)

(By the way, my car would start after I crashed and I drove to the Yale campus, parked and walked to the chapel, but when I got inside I realized my left had was rotated about 100 degrees and I couldn't make it come back and asked someone to take me to the hospital!)

Ice is a totally different animal from snow. It is important for people in New England to get that distinction and realize that if you drive 15 miles slower in snow than on dry road and press your break like there was an egg between your foot and the pedal, you'll be just fine.

It's why we live in New England--we have seasons--and one of them involves snow....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.