Here in D.C., we sit in breathless, panicky expectation of a whammy of a snowstorm. It’s been a while since we’ve gotten some serious snow, so we are all tremendously excited and choosing to express our excitement through stock-piling essentials like steamer clams, green tea mochi, and cheese doodles…and then forgetting things like toilet paper and granola. But we got a little taste of the coming storm last night when thick, pebble-sized flakes of snow started drifting down after dark. I shuffled home through the gentle snowfall and stood under a streetlamp for a minute. The snow was beautiful.
Everything is quieter in snow. Snow muffles sound – car wheels, human feet- and in so doing encourages us to keep silent. Snow is the only weather event I can think of that makes no sound. You can hear wind, rain, hail, sleet…but you can’t hear snow. You’re one sense down, which naturally heightens all other senses to compensate. And we can’t help but plug that gap with our own, very personal, feelings. All of a sudden you want to relieve your childhood through sledding, or be a better neighbor through keeping an eye out for the homeless and getting them to shelters, or dive deep into spirituality and mysticism for which silently falling snow provides a natural backdrop.
But, there comes a point in every snowy day when you huddle for warmth and feel very much like the animal you truly are – an animal that is grateful for some shelter, and a moment of stillness in which to contemplate nature’s terrible, sacred beauty. This is what Gjeilo’s staggeringly lovely choral piece was written to celebrate.
Pulchra es amica mea,
suavis et decora sicut Jerusalem,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata.
Averte oculos tuos a me
quia ipsi me avolare fecerunt.
Thou art beautiful, O my love,
sweet and comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army set in array.
Turn away thine eyes from me,
for they have made me flee away.