As the snow falls, time to shut out the world


“As the snow falls, time to shut out the world” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (January 28, 2015).

The night is silent save for the compression of snow as my shoes slog through the yard. God mutes the world with snowfall, and suddenly the slightest sound I make is an intrusion on that peace. The snow below talks with each step I take, just as the snow above begins to take its place.

I reach my destination and set to work. Wind-fallen branches have been stacked together, a depressed and discarded collection of woody arms that once reached out to the sky in leafy coats of color. I grasp and lift, bend and take; the branches give, crack, splinter, break.

Quickly a mound forms in the center of the stony circle. Stick by stick it grows. The higher the mound, the higher the flame.

But sticks alone will not do. With snow covering the earth, wetting the wood, something more is needed to help the spark along – perhaps the wood’s more opinionated offspring. I reach into my back pocket and pull out the folded newspaper. This will do.

First to go is the front page and its reports of death, disaster, discord, and discontent. Line after line of depressing ink shares stories of violent deaths, missing airliners, wrangling legislatures, and baying protesters. I grab the page with my fist and crumple.

Then, tucking the newsprint under the pyre as if making a deathbed, I reach for section after section.

One after the other, quickly the pages crumple, and quickly the bed is made. Terrorist plots, mass kidnappings, beheadings. Droughts, fire, toxic spills. In they go.

Next the talking heads of the opinion pages. Right-wing blowhards shout it out with left-wing malcontents, and never the twain shall meet – except in the fire. Common sense and compromise fall by the wayside as shouting voices forget that it takes two wings to fly a straight and steady course.

I grab them all and crumple their words.

The sports page provides no reprieve. Monday-morning quarterbacks critique and crucify, demanding perfection from coach, player, and owner alike. Perfection is a fable, and around these parts, so is winning.

I continue to clutch and crumple. Hollywood breakups, Twitter feuds, and mass hysteria about an actress’ new look.

TV listings and weather reports are of little use when snow descends upon the land. No better show can be found, and we are meant to join in it.

I grab the last page of newsprint and pause. Charlie Brown, the Foxtrot family, and Calvin and his snowmen stare back at me. I carefully fold the colorful pages and place them back in my pocket.

Then, bending down, I strike a match to the paper. Immediately the ink, the words, the letters, they begin to turn to ash; and within minutes the entire world has disappeared, replaced by the warmth and light of burning timbers.

I stand back and watch.

Snow is falling.

Flames are rising.

And the world is mute.


  1. Hi Mike,
    LOVED your recent post..
    Will send it along to our troops, who LOVE your missives.
    Love, Barb McG

  2. Dear Mike,
    Thank you for the refreshing story “As the snow falls, time to shut out the world.”. It reminded me of how quiet it is when your outside enjoying nature’s peace. Thank you so much, really enjoyed it.

  3. Hi Mike,
    What a unique and refreshing way to share a snowstorm moment with us! Your pace and surprisingly humorous drama with the newspaper parts kept me intrigued until the first ending–the comics kept, and then the climax–the hush of the snow, and a call to us all. Thank you.

  4. Deer Michael,
    Re: As the Snow Falls
    Lovely article; beautifully written.
    Thank you for taking me along on that tranquil walk.

  5. Your essay caught my fancy at breakfast this AM. The irony is that the world is not mute with words like yours.

  6. MIKE,
    LOVED this masterpiece, so appropriate
    during these freezing days. Best to you and your
    family. I have sent this on all our troops.
    Love, Barbara McG

  7. Doles! I lay down my over busied life long enough to follow the conversari email link to another beautiful piece from an old comrade. It’s been far too long, old friend. It felt good, standing beside you, as you crumpled up the nonsense of the world and made something beautiful of it. Something warm and inviting, as you always have. I could almost smell the smoke, hear the crackles and feel the warmth on my hands and face. It brought me back to simpler and happy times. Staring up at the stars, wondering what our futures may hold. Conversations by the moonlit night. I remember getting those in the mail, along with other strange gifts from far away places. Letters bearing postmarks so unique, I always swore they must have been from you. i can’t remember how or why we lost touch with the other, but reading this makes me feel like the conversation never ended. Good stuff my friend, good stuff. – Lap

  8. Thank you once again for sharing a heartfelt and touching story that comes to life and takes one away to a simple yet magical moment in time, to cherish and repeat and hold on to! I smile and eagerly open your emails when I know I have a few moments to soak in your words, appreciate and enjoy them : )

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