The Sound of Snow Falling

Earlier this week as I was standing outside waiting for our new puppy to quit chewing on leaves and sticks and discarded seedpods and pinecones and get down to business (you know, business), the snow began to fall, and it sounded like static electricity, or sand sifting constantly, or a far-off snake rattle, or the clatter of a million maracas in the distance.

I have been trying to be a better listener.

On my way to a doctor’s appointment a week or so ago, I tuned in to a podcast episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. She interviewed Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist (who knew there was such a thing!) in an episode called “Silence and the Presence of Everything“:

“An attentive listener, he says silence is an endangered species on the verge of extinction. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound but an absence of noise.

When I step outside with my dogs and wait for them to stop their sniffing and bustling about so they can get down to business, I have been trying to be a better listener. I have been trying to leave my cell phone inside and let my senses take in the wonders of our small corner of the universe.

The sound of the wind is different in winter, is different when there’s snow on the ground or in the air, when it’s gusting from the north or whirring from the west or whipping up and over our roof and into the pool of lawn. The wind is different through the spruce needles, a rustling like the stirring of sand on an empty beach, different than through the pines, which whisper a shhh are you listening, shhhh, shhhh, shhhh, different from the oaks and other deciduous trees that croak and moan and sway numbly, their eyes closed, bearing down and letting go of whatever limbs they can’t hold anymore.

You have to stop moving so quickly in order to do this kind of listening. You have to let go of the notion that forward momentum is a constant necessity. In doing so you make room for the pregnant pause, the silence that is not absence but presence, holy, sacred presence, the wind, yes, but also the chittering squirrel, the alert pup, the cawing crow, the bending blades of grass under the snow.


Photo by Adam Lukac from Pexels

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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