I decided to begin February this year in a place I love: the Benedictine monastery where I go with my friends on retreat. We arrived on one of the coldest nights of the year, but the little upstairs bedroom where I slept was cozy.
When I woke up Saturday morning, the sun was making the snow sparkle. Luckily, I'd brought lots of warm clothing. I dressed hurriedly, eager to get outside into the morning light. The icy cold air felt good in my lungs as I tramped up the road and down the hill toward the chapel, the barn, and the other monastery buildings.
I saw tracks in the snow, mostly deer and rabbit. The sheep pastures curved towards the woods, white and unbroken. I wondered where all the sheep were on this winter day. My footsteps were the only ones in the barnyard.
Tall stacks of hay filled two of the barns: these monks have a pretty large herd of sheep to feed. In the third barn, I finally found some sheep: the rams! They are kept separate from the ewes. One ram stepped out into the snowy barnyard to stare at me as I walked through. On this icy day, I envied the sheep their wool coats.
I love the way snow transforms familiar surroundings into something alien. The stacks of hay in the pasture looked to me like whales rising from a light blue sea. I wandered happily about, yanking my mittens off to take photos, until the my feet and fingers were numb, and then I retreated into the warm chapel to light some candles.