“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.