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Deep White and Silent World

We were lucky this time, here in the southern highlands of Appalachia.  The punishing winds and the ice and the sleet passed us by, as surely as if we had daubed the doorjamb with lamb's blood.  What we got was a lazy eighteen-hour snowfall.

From the snug window, we watched the small light flakes pepper the landscape, relentless, implacable. There were separate periods of light or no snow and then the snow-globe world would return. The streetlight reflecting on the snow made the front room almost as bright as day.

We were lucky because the hysterical weather people warned us of this impending snowpocalypse, this snowmaggedon.  Most folks around here got their beer/milk/bread/eggs frenzy early so that my trip to the grocery store the day before the actual event was calm and easy. The store manager allowed as how there hadn't been a single loaf of bread in the place at the end of the previous day.

I went to sleep last night in that marvelous silence that a deep snowfall brings. The train whistle was even softened by the acoustic barrier of six inches of precipitation. A mercy, here in the house above the tracks.

In such a silent place, one may reflect on the coming of spring, the hardships faced by our Ancestors, the myriad villages and towns around us who were bedded down for the night in the quiet. I thought of my English and Scottish friends who are facing terrible rains and floods. I thought of friends and relations in Atlanta who had been through a rougher event mere days before. I was and am filled with gratitude that my daughter no longer lives in the high mountains and has to get to class, even in snow.

Where can our spirits travel when the world is filled with the movement of lacy water? Having indulged myself in the fullness of Imbolc, my spirit has been reaching out to touch the sleeping bears, the cold snakes, the groundhogs deep and warm in their dens.

When this snow has made its transformation from flake to droplet, the world here will be ready to welcome the new spring, I think. We'll have more cold and perhaps more snow--March is often a snowy month here--but there is a shift out in the garden, amongst the perennials and the fruit trees. They have shaken off their winter's rest and the buds are fattening in expectation.  The quince-buds are nearly pink enough to see, the hellebore is preparing for her role as Lenten rose, the apples won't need much encouragement to bring forth the fruiting flowers beloved of the orchardkeeper.

There is a responsibility inherent in following a spiritual path so closely tied to the changing of seasons and the turning of the Great Wheel. I'm not speaking of the responsibility of covering the tender plants and having the row covers ready--which I did not do this year and lost my entire winter-over crop. We have a responsibility to know when to leave the old season behind and embrace the new. Though the summer may be tempting, the harvest must be brought in. And in this time when the calling of the world is so shrill and insistent, it is tempting to remain in our den, sleepy in our hibernation.

But the Earth awaits us, every day renewed, and our time of rest is at an end for now, for this season. Fecundity and plenty await us, if we are willing to enter into this old and harrowing relationship with our old and living planet.

Check your seed corn, make sure the tools are sharp and ready. Spring will come, bud to flower, calf to cow, blossom to fruit.  It always does, even when we are still asleep.

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


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    Diotima Thursday, 13 February 2014 it really time to wake up? Oh, right. I have to plan the garden. They say food prices are going to go way up this year. Drought, Tower Time, all that...

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Friday, 14 February 2014

    Yeah, you know...the usual. I am loving the Resilient Gardener, by the way, and hope to be able to pick your brain for the Women's Garden.

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