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Living On the Pack

January 27, 2011

Like wild asses in the desert, they go out to their toil, scavenging in the waste-land food for their young.
—Job 24:5 NRSV

It’s always a stark moment here in New England, especially the more southerly parts of New England, to see driveways with tire tracks cut through the snow. There’s more snow underneath there now, and it’s because it’s packed. We are On the Pack for the first time in a long time in Franklin, Massachusetts.

Contrary to those counting how many birds are falling over as a sign of the apocalypse, I don’t see this as the end of the world. I’m one of those dopes who actually enjoys the snow and the disruption it brings. I am blessed to be in ministry on these days, because I can often cover childcare and make the time up later. I also don’t get tired of trudging through drifts, which seems to indicate other personality defects.

But even I, as the snow started falling yet again last night to accumulate nearly a foot, turned to my wife and said, “I didn’t move to New Hampshire, but I feel like I did.”

Have you ever seen the movie Affliction? This is a film (based on a book by the brilliant Russell Banks) about life, love, alcoholism, nature vs. nurture, and many other things. It’s also about life “on the pack.” The first few snowfalls can be cleared away pretty easily. Then the next few might create those big piles that folks know they’ll still see a vestige of in March. After that, if the temperature stays low, it’s just snow on snow on snow, packed down until you literally lose touch with the ground. The surfaces you traverse are slippery and uneven. Your feet don’t connect anymore. Folks are adrift. It’s an exciting prospect on the day you have lift tickets. But it can wear on the soul, missing that connection.

Right before the snow hits each time, people race out after work to “buy milk.” People that don’t even have kids seem to be wandering the store, buying milk. True enough, the milk is mostly gone from the racks. It seems like the universal impulse to nest is activated again; but without real imperative, we go into auto-pilot and buy milk. Most of us have front-wheel-drive cars. Most of us can go and get milk when we need it, even in the snow. I was out driving on the pack last night. You put it in second gear, take your time, and give yourself extra room to stop. If you’ve got snow tires, you’re going to be fine.

Also, remember that this state of being on the pack is life-altering. Do things that help you feel connected again; hug the kids, phone friends, do yoga, stretch out, watch a favorite show. Turn to a favorite scripture, and read again; “I am with always, even to the end of the age.”

Prayer: God, when I am On the Pack, thank you for walking with me. Keep my foot safe, and help me to be cautious without worrying too much. Amen.

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