Monday, February 4, 2008

Creating Snow Angels as a Spiritual Practice

Friday, we had a memorial service for a 90-year-old lay leader of my congregation. I managed to arrive at church early enough to make a few snow angels in honor of Jane H. Wood and still have time to change into a suit for the service. An ardent feminist, Jane H. did not hesitate to speak her mind and was much admired and modeled by the women (and men) who knew her.

We've gotten a lot of gorgeous snow this winter, so I've been making snow angels at my UU church whenever I can. Creating them in what I consider to be a sacred space is a wonderfully uplifting and peaceful experience for me. I watch the sky while I carefully make each one, intentionally pressing my hood into the snow and sweeping safely mittened hands to form large, graceful wings. And I always make sure to move my legs so that the angel wears a skirt, not bell-bottomed pants! To me, a snow angel symbolizes the joy of having a spiritual life in the north country, because creating a snow angel is a way to not just acknowledge mystery, but have fun with it in our natural world.

Of course, no one knows what happens when we die, but I don't think that any of us sprout wings and fly around like birds. However, that is a powerful image of something that humans have aspired to do for thousands of years. We imagine that being able to soar like an eagle would be exhilarating, joyous, a peak experience. Why, it would be a direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder which renews our spirit. It would open us to the forces that create and uphold life. Sounds like our first source to me! It's what I connect with when forming an angel.

Every time I've created a snow angel, I've encouraged other UUs to join me in this spiritual practice, but everyone I've asked has said no (to my continued astonishment). Even a little girl didn't want to make one! Instead, she insisted that we make snow butts, which means we merely sat down in the snow. Maybe in another year, she'll be ready for angels....

I first created an adult-sized snow angel when at a spiritual retreat with some members of my congregation. We went to St. Norbert's Monastery (near Green Bay, WI) and woke up to sunshine, dazzling snow and a fine temperature -- 18 degrees. I was raised Catholic until age ten, so this Monastery seemed sacred to me, except that retreatants were only allowed in certain places. I urged the others to come outside, but they said that it was too cold out (wimps). By myself, I found the perfect place for an angel and made it joyously, but realized afterwards that the angel was in the forbidden zone! I confessed to the manager, who seemed delighted. In fact, he went out and made a snow angel right on top of mine so that I wouldn't get into trouble.

May we all find joy in our direct experience of mystery, whatever it may be.
Elizabeth

1 comment:

Jen said...

It cracks me up, to think of a "forbidden zone" for snow angels! There's a terrific rebellion waiting to happen... a snow angel sit-in! (Or perhaps that would be a snow-butt sit-in, eh?) :D You're wonderful!