The land looked empty. That’s what I noticed first. But this emptiness was not merely an absence of presence. After all, we are talking about farmland. Oftentimes there’s no one or no thing around.
Except crops. Corn, wheat, even grass – throughout most of the year something grows on the land. In this way, some form of life inhabits the field, making use of it. Purpose is palpable. The land yields something useful, something alive and life-giving. Not during winter. Instead, the land is a pantomime of loneliness.
Despite this, my vision of the landscape did not elicit destitution or despair. No, it represented a period of renewal. The barrenness was not just isolation. It was cleansing. The chill purified the farmland. The cycle was necessary so that, come spring, the soil could fulfill its purpose once again. Looking out across that plain, seeing the chill and the void it had created, I sensed that even in the most vicious and bitter environments, a beauty is hovering, waiting to be seen.
This veil that cloaked the land, this detectable attribute of an invisible state, shone dimly back into the grey sky. It shimmered. The products of winter have a tendency to shine in this way. Although the atmosphere often grows grey and dull in the heart of the season, there are days when the brightness radiating through windows and off car hoods is overwhelming. Snow and ice reflect the atmosphere back into their surroundings. The elements create a luster not seen any other time of year. With the white snow obscuring the landscape and the crystalline ice sparkling in the intermittent shafts of sunshine, the air all around is almost blinding, showcasing a brilliance that is consuming and awe-inspiring in the same breath.
That day, my consciousness collided with a mystery often hidden behind the more harshly-assaulted senses.
The grand thing about this glorious world that we’ve all been dropped into is that beauty is all around. There’s a natural and enigmatic beauty for us to behold in creation: the burning stars, a towering mountain, an immense forest. And there’s wonder in the everyday, the ordinary: the ingenuity of man as showcased in the architecture of a city, the marvel of loving families as evidenced by warmly-lit houses, the cohesion of community as symbolized by rugged, aging neighborhoods.
Many days I don’t see it. The surrounding beauty is often buried deeper than I can dig: hidden beneath the polar vortex; hiding behind the sleet pelting me in the face and the wind lashing my exposed ears, making them ring; buried under the desire to escape the elements, to leave the colorless, frozen atmosphere so that I can sit in the caressing heat of a house.
Yet sometimes, I’m convinced that all we have to do is look at the chill, listen to the thaw, or feel the change of the leaves to catch a glimpse.