Holda shakes the snow out of her feather bedsheets. The clumps of white flutter down to the earth, and we borrow her blankets to keep the land safe from the freezing temperatures.
Holda gave people flax and spinning. The fibers of wool or linen or wyrd twist together to make a durable and warm sweater to wrap our lives in. Our own work wrapping our lives.
I met Holda last winter when I got a very serious lesson in the dangers simply of living. I was riding a bus home from dinner with my sister, and the bus stopped on the highway for over an hour. There was a car accident, and a young woman my age died. That day it really hit me how easy it is for life to just suddenly end.
Last winter in Philadelphia (and most everywhere) was record breaking. We had three record breaking snowfalls of over two feet each, two of which were within a week of each other. Coming as I do from Alabama, it was more snow than I’ve ever seen in my life. After getting home from working the day of the first snowfall, I stood by my altars and watched out the window as the snow fell, and I was amazed by how beautiful it looked.
At the same time, snow is so dangerous. It causes car accidents. I lived at the time in a neighborhood so hilly that they can’t plow most of the streets–many are just closed during the winter because cars cannot drive up them in the ice. I saw an ambulance trapped on a street not far from my house, unable to drive to save someone because the snow had caught them on a hill.
Last winter my sister bought a spinning wheel, and the clickety-clack sounds were quite soothing while the wind was blowing cold outside. The industry of making yarn out of fluffy wool kept the world going while it slept under Holda’s lost feathers.
Holda is back for the winter. Just the other day while I was walking to work, I was met by a snow white fluttering feather, slowly making its way to the earth. It followed me at eye level for several steps, then caught the wind and flew off behind me. I glanced at the ground and realized it was the morning of the first frost. Hello, Holda! May your blanket keep us warm in the cold.
There really is something about how snow improves the cold. When I lived in Alabama, our winters were not very cold, but they seemed so much colder. People were always walking around saying, “If it’s going to be cold, it might as well snow.” Even in very cold temperatures, the beauty of the snow is so wonderfully distracting from the biting tingle on my nose and mouth. There is such joy in snow and its ability to keep people resting inside, together, all day long. The way that it hides the differences between places, makes bushes look exactly like stones–it’s the magic of communion.