Blankets of snow have finally arrived, and the world takes on that muffled sound. It’s like you really are under a blanket, curled up in bed as a kid with the pink one pulled up over your ears, waiting for the rushing water of the shower to stop and dad to crack open your door and make sure you’re awake. But with the snow comes the roar of the snow blower: powerful enough to blast through six inches of the heavy stuff but loud enough to require earplugs when operating to and wake up the whole block from their Sunday naps. Plows scrape down the street, metal on concrete joining the scratch-thump of shovelers.
The incessant summer crowd has deserted Cedar Point, leaving it a frosty wasteland of saran-wrapped carousels and snow-topped trash cans every ten feet. Half-marathoners tear through the fresh powder, slipping now and then, accompanied by holiday music they’ve insisted on playing through the loudspeakers all around the park. A woman rings a cowbell as each group, Santa hat clad, flies past, some with jingle bells attached to various pieces of clothing. Once they’ve left the park to run the windy bridge across Lake Erie and back, the park is silent but for the music and the crunching of boots on snow. It’s The Polar Express’s North Pole, a typically bustling city now silent and eerie, “Jingle Bell Rock” echoing forlornly down the avenues. Cheers erupt at the finish line as winded runners gasp for icy breath.
The mightiest pipe organ in all the land thunders the chords of “Hark, The Herald” as the audience sings along. A victorious anthem of ringing earth and heaven from the choir is next, ending with a joyful major harmony. Clapping ricochets around the sanctuary, bouncing off brick walls and getting swallowed by coats and scarves lining the pews. The choir follows with a gentle lullaby, quieting the fussy baby and leaving a moment of perfect silence after the final note. No one rustles. No one coughs. The air is tense, heavy with silence. Then the director lowers his arms, and the choir shifts their weight, and the audience relaxes, sniffs and whispers suddenly so loud in the twinkling hall.
Only the bleat of sleepy sheep breaks the stillness of the night. Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly hosts appears, glorifying and praising God. In the stable, oxen are lowing and restless donkeys are shifting in their hay-filled stalls. A woman cries out, her anguish soon joined by the plaintive yells of a newborn taking first breath into his lungs. And after the chaos, a moment of quiet. The baby coos. The husband whispers words of comfort. They’re joined by the shepherds after a time, and congratulations fill the air. When the excitement dies down, everyone sits for a moment, taking the mother’s lead, pondering these things in their heart. A savior, Messiah. Silent night.
Abby Zwart (’13) teaches high school English in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spends her free time making lists of books she should read, cooking, and managing the post calvin.