It’s winter again and that means snow! Whoever you talk to, you will find a variety of emotions associated with snow. When a big storm was forecast as coming our way, I used to tell my 5th grade violin class to play “Jingle Bells” ten times in a row when they got home to ensure we’d get a snow-day the next day. Meanwhile, parents would grumble about the mess, the dangerous driving conditions and the horrible commute they’d have to endure if we did get snow. I’ll never know if they took their kid’s instruments away from them after the third or fourth rendition during those long nights. But one thing was for sure—I saw snow from both sides.
One of my all-time favorite folk songs is “Both Sides Now” written by Joni Mitchell and performed by Judy Collins. In it she sings about the contrast between her naïve optimism and hardened pessimism in looking at various aspects of her life, namely clouds, love, and life itself. The lyrics have a magical way of conveying her whimsy on one side, making me laugh at my own childhood fancies of life. Then when she sings of the other side, my heart aches for her because I too have felt the deepened pain of life, be it through loss, betrayal, bad choices, and so on. Can you really ever see the naivety of life again, after having lived through pain? Can you ever really pray for a snow-day after being an adult who has to live through the hazardous weather? Judy Collins saw both sides. I’d like to introduce another side—what our Father in Heaven sees.
Winter is white. It doesn’t have the budding flowers of spring. It doesn’t have the full green splendor of summer. It doesn’t have the brilliant colors of autumn. Winter is white. And with that whiteness lies resetting, refocus, restoration, and rebirth. Imagine a garden filled with maples, dogwoods, aspens, and weeping cherries. Each tree has a unique shape and size, a singular way of expressing its true nature. In spring their flowering buds are of a variety of pinks reds, and new greens. In summer the leaves are of differing shapes and depths of green. And in autumn, a painter stokes them with the richness of reds oranges and yellows. But in winter they are bare—every one of them. When the trees are bare they can hold the heavy snow perched on their limbs, making them all white. Even the fir trees that retain their needles of green hold a layer of white snow on their branches. Suddenly, all the trees are reset to white, like a clean slate. The temperature drops to slow them down to rest and restore for their life cycle to begin again.
Freshly fallen snow on the ground is like a blanket of purity. It hides the divots, blemished grass, even the fallen branches left over from last year’s forgotten clean-up effort. It too represents a renewal, where everywhere you look you see a blank slate. And the vegetation underneath—springtime bulbs, sleeping grass, perennials in the garden—they are given their needed rest in the cold with a blanket of snow to keep them moist and alive as they wait to be reborn.
My favorite is the snow crocus. It sleeps beneath the earth all winter long, then at the first sign of early spring, it blossoms with vivid purples and oranges. And if snow comes again, it doesn’t mind. Its hearty nature withstands the new fallen snow. The snow crocus stand as a symbol of renewal in a carpet of virtue sent from above.
There is a majestic spirit that comes with every snowfall. It speaks to you in our Heavenly Father’s language. He is saying to you, “Stop for a moment. Breathe in my purity. Gaze upon my cleansing power. See how it covers the earth— it’s meant to cover you too. Bask for a moment in my everlasting power to heal all and make everything clean again. You can start over. My only begotten son will lead you along.”
“Both Sides Now” concludes each verse with an open ended thought—no matter how Judy looks at life, she really doesn’t know about it at all. It’s the open ended nature that draws me in as I ask myself, “Can I ever really know?” If we listen to our Heavenly Father’s message, we can know. We are meant to gather strength from his pure love after being wrapped in the arms of renewal, reflection and spiritual rebirth. Learn from both sides of life. Let his message balance the two sides. Then go forth with boldness being our unique and wonderful selves.
So before you shovel off the car, before you send your kids out to make snow angels, before you let your mind travel to the office without you, listen to the message our Father in Heaven is telling you from his gift, the snow. Even for a moment, listen. Then wrap yourself in the message of renewal. And burst forth like the bold and striking snow crocus at the first sign of spring.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.