A Fine Winter Night Is a Wonderful Time to Look Up

I love winter.

Plenty there is to love about each of the four seasons. The best features of each one are incredibly amazing and delightful and might tempt you to cast your vote once and for all: This season is my favorite!

Truth be told, each also comes with its own failings. Be ye frozen or boiled or dried out or almost blown away as the wind howls and rodents, small children, and acres of dirt fly across the landscape, it’s not fair to judge any of them—the seasons, I mean—by their worst failings. Each one is capable of gross misbehavior, but their very wildness, their predictable unpredictability, is part and parcel of what makes them amazing.

I tend to feel about them as I tend to feel about my grandchildren: Each of them has plenty of opportunities to be my favorite at any given moment—it all works out admirably—because my favorite at any given moment is the one I’m with. The season I’m with now is winter, and it is now my favorite.

Why do I feel mildly apologetic about that? I suppose because most of my fellow human beings are prone to disagree. But regarding this oft-slandered season, hear me out. (If you have cattle, just quit reading; I won’t convince you, nor would I try.)

Say what you may, winter has snow. I could rest my case here. Nothing in God’s good creation is more beautiful. Head to the mountains. Strap on sticks and play in it. Or just gaze out of the cabin window and watch the snowflakes gently falling.

And winter has fireplaces and cups of steaming coffee or tea and good books and old movies and warm homes or cabins to stay in. And Christmas. Oh, don’t forget Christmas!

So I hold before you—and now is the time to stand and applaud and exclaim “Hear, hear!”—the exemplary and time-honored season of winter.

Winter, may I also mention, is an incredibly fine time to step out onto your front porch at night, breathe in the wonderfully crisp air that reminds you that you’re still alive, and just look up. No sky is sharper, clearer, more beautiful than a winter sky. And the stars? Oh, they never shine more brightly.

As the story goes, told by naturalist William Beebe, he and Teddy Roosevelt, shared a ritual forty or fifty times over the years. After an evening of conversation, they’d step out onto the lawn and look up at “the faint, heavenly spot of light-mist beyond the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus,” when “one or the other of us would then recite” the lines of their familiar litany: “‘That is the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is 750,000 light-years away. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun.’”

Then, Beebe writes, “After an interval, Colonel Roosevelt would grin at me and say, ‘Now I think we are small enough! Let’s go to bed.’”

Contemplating the night sky is good medicine for mortals. Even old Job wrote, wounded and wide-eyed in the oldest book of the Bible, but feeling healthily small, about the God who “is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south” (9:9).

What a fine exercise and what deep and celestial truth for even earth-bound mortal minds to contemplate. It’s wise indeed to look up and be big enough to feel small—in any season. If your head doesn’t explode by taking in the universe, your heart will be quite healthily enlarged.

Yes, a good thing to do in any season. But maybe best of all when God sets before you a fine winter night and a sparkling sky. Even better if below, in a blanket of snow, ice crystals are twinkling out reflections from the diamond light drifting downward and washing over you. And around you. And into you. From galaxies far light-years away but as close as your own soul.

Look up. Just breathe. Close your eyes as stars tickle your nose. And give thanks.

After all, isn’t that what a wonderful winter night is for? 

You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!

Copyright 2021 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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