A Sound of Hope

by Elizabeth deGraw Renna

My town, like many this year, got hit by another snowstorm recently. The forecast that I kept hearing suggested that we would have a rain-snow mix with an actual accumulation of an inch of snow. It didn’t turn out that way. Instead we ended up with an official total of 8.8 inches. The reason, in hindsight for meteorologists, had to do with wet air filling in a dry spot in the atmosphere and causing more rather than less snow to fall in our area. The storm produced blizzard-like conditions, with a strong north wind causing blowing snow and drifts. The falling snow started out in the shape of tiny little snow balls, which I discovered when I cleared our deck the next day. These baby spheres were buried under the fluffier snow, forming the bottom layer and looking like miniature Styrofoam balls, almost not real. Throughout that Sunday the snow fell like “Christmas” snow – big, fat flakes that coated the trees in a winter wonderland way. The wind created dramatic sculpted drifts. We had a snow day – school was closed on Monday and that meant a day off for me.

Late on that Monday morning, I went outside to clear the icy chunks left by the snowplow that had lumbered down our street earlier. Then I went to the backyard to clear our deck, tromping through snowdrifts that had formed on the lawn. It was cold, in the 20’s, but luckily not too windy. I could feel my fingers starting to burn a little with the cold, despite wearing my thickest gloves. The sky had a thin overcast of cloud but it was beginning to clear. And then I heard a sound that didn’t fit with this snowy, chilly landscape. It was the springtime call of a bird, a cardinal, repeated several times. It was the kind of sound you usually hear when temperatures are warming and the air smells moist, like wet dirt, with a hint of things beginning to sprout.

The sound made me laugh out loud. It felt like a sound of hope for spring in the middle of a winter scene. I paused, stopped pushing snow for a moment and just listened.

Paradox, noun

– A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.

– Something exhibiting inexplicable or contradictory aspects

[From the Greek, paradoxos, meaning “conflicting with expectation“]

It WAS a paradoxical situation, where one aspect of the scene definitely conflicted with or was contradictory to my expectations. It may have seemed inexplicable (adjective, impossible to explain or account for) to me, which is perhaps one reason I laughed out loud. Why in the world was a bird calling for a mate in the middle of a cold and snowy world? But I decided to take his bright, crystal clear birdsong as a sign of hope. Spring really is coming. If the birds can feel it, then I believe it too.