Pausing for Peaceby Valerie Benko
It sounds like poetry, and it was, for the moment it lasted.
I hold dear that memory because I found something that night that some people never do.
It was my sophomore year of college and I had to park my car at the football stadium which was on the opposite side of campus from my dorm. There were other cars in the lot; empty, silent and covered in frost. It was late and the campus was deserted.
Straight ahead a soccer field stretched before me. I could see the roof of the recreation center tucked behind the field. Its glass peak was like a beacon in the night. To my right was the oldest dorm on campus. Twenty-three stories of windows were lit up. Behind it, the darks woods hid wildlife and twisted cross country trails. Beyond the woods lay the golf fields and ski slope. The stadium towered behind me dark and silent.
I was alone, bundled up in a ski jacket. Thin gloves barely warmed my hands and I pulled up my hood to keep away the chill. My breath formed clouds in the still air. It was going to be some walk.
Gravel crunched under my shoes as I crossed the parking lot. I realized I had two choices: follow the uneven sidewalk that ran between the backside of Founders Hall and the woods or trek across the snowy soccer field.
I weighed my options. The sidewalk was bordered by lamp posts that cast a weak glow on the sidewalk. Many times the lights had failed me when they suddenly clicked off as I approached, plunging me into darkness. Then there were the woods. Rumors circulated on campus of girls being raped there because it is so dark and deserted.
The soccer field, on the other hand, was covered in several inches of snow. That meant snow in my shoes, cold feet and wet jeans by the time I reached my dorm. Despite that, the field was wide open and no one could sneak up on me without me noticing.
I chose the field.
The moon reflected off of the fresh snow and illuminated my way as I abandoned the desolate parking lot and tentatively stepped onto the field. I expected to sink immediately, but I did not. The hard packed snow was solid. Midway through the field I praised myself for choosing this route. I breathed in the cold air, shifted my backpack and with the next step sunk up to my knees in snow.
Though I knew the field dipped in the middle, the snow drifts made it appear level. I concluded I was in the dip. I stood there for a moment transfixed as I took in my surroundings. Here I was, alone in this field that was covered in white. It was silent. No cars passed by. The moon‘s glow made it seem like day. Oddly, I wasn’t cold. I looked up at the bright stars.
That’s when I felt it; peace.
For that brief moment in time when I stood in the middle of that open snowy field, there was peace. Everything was in balance; everything was right in the world. It was the most wonderful feeling. Silence, all around. There was a strange calmness in my soul. I felt safe and secure.
“All is calm, all is bright.”
I wonder if Joseph Mohr was inspired to write his infamous poem while standing in a snowy field on a winter’s night. It seems to be the snow that quiets the night and brings the calmness. On many winter evenings, I’ve caught myself pausing at a window to peer upon the snow.
Every now and then when I find the need to retreat from hectic work days and the chaos of life, I seek that snowy field. While I don’t physically go there, I remember how I felt that moment I was knee-deep in snow and with a little imagination I’m back there surrounded by peace.