“Oh, the weather out there is frightful, but the fire is so delightful; we really don’t have to go! Let it snow; let it snow; let it snow”

Well, it sure did! We’ve a blanket of nine inches in our back yard, and it’s still coming down. I was hoping to water the lawn but this is a bit much! Naw, probably not!! We need the moisture so bad; “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

I must admit I’m not a fan of the white stuff. I don’t even dream of a “White Christmas.” Since I’m approaching 80, skiing, snowboarding, even sledding have long since gone by the by. That’s for you younger folks. For sure, the kids enjoy it. I’ve watched several frolic in the snow from my window in my warm house. Even our pooch, Jake, the jock, thinks this crazy cold stuff is great. He slides in it, buries his nose and toys in it, only to dig’m up in it and then roll in it getting totally wet. As rare as it’s been of late, I’m sure there are many who rejoice and play with snow-balls, snow-men, and snow-mobiles. And the earth is getting a good drink! Thanks be to God! He does have a way of rejuvenating His creation. In a recent TV commercial advertising a forthcoming series on the “Dust Bowl”, it shows the cracked earth with one little green shoot poking its way to light. That all gives me hope for tomorrow.

As I said, however, I’ve always looked at snow with a jaundiced eye; it just seems so seductively troublesome. When first it falls and lays that lovely blanket of white, everything seems so clean and pure and ordered. The white surface rolls gently and evenly over ruptures or brokenness or ugliness. Everything for a moment is pristine. Of course, children’s laughter adds a kind of music to the lovely scene, and all seems right with the world. Then it begins to melt into ugly, dirty, brown slush; we slip and break a hip or worse; our cars slide into each other or into a ditch; and often it hangs around in dirty piles for many weeks. All the regular ugliness is again revealed, and we slog around through the slush. I try to stay inside.

That is my plan for today. Yet another crisis has arisen; last evening we viewed the last episode of year two of Downton Abby. Mr. Bates has been arrested, Mathew and Mary seem to be permanently parted and the stable relationship between Lord and Lady Grantham seems to be struggling. I’ve already ordered Year Three, but it won’t arrive until next week….oy vey!! What shall we do in the evenings until the postman again brings us the Abby?

Of course, that is all “tongue in cheek.” We do enjoy the series, but its absence is not a crisis. I’ve wondered, however, why this “early 20th Century” soap opera has become so popular. It is the story of an aristocratic English family, its internal intrigues and challenges, its survival through the First World War, and its re-birth following the “war to end all wars.” But it is basically an evening edition of “As the World Turns”, or “All My Children.” What’s the attraction?

For me, I’ve discovered that I truly enjoy the order, decency, respect, gentleness, and elegance portrayed throughout each episode. Everyone has a place, and everyone keeps their place while respecting everyone else’s place. Of course, there is a forced artificial social structure that is both safe for some and oppressive for others. Downton never shows the child-labor sweat shops of the times, or the poor-houses or orphanages that notoriously caused much suffering. But the stratosphere that is portrayed gives a feeling of security and stability that we’ve long since lost in our modern cyber-space, social media, hyper-swift world of the 21st Century. From the house-maids to the dowager Countess, from the footman to the Lord Grantham, there is an elegance of dress that speaks of a self-respect that our slovenly “jeans hung on hips” has obviously abandoned. The ladies did show some shoulder and bosom, but in the best of modesty and decency and good taste. To view a ladies ankle was frisky. The meals, whether among the servants or the Grantham’s, are enjoyed with pace and rhythm that always allow for gentle conversation and real camaraderie; a sharp contrast to our “fast food gobble”, with its background of “screams and explosions” we call music. Of course it is all fantasy; a portrait of people, places and times that are no more. Its appeal to me is that it consistently shows qualities of human nature that we’ve ejected, forgotten, or buried. I still like human nobility, decency, modesty, courtesy, mutual respect, and thoughtful conversation, even disagreements. Downton gives us a reminder of all that. A remembrance of something more meaningful, valuable, and durable than our obsession with violence, speed, wealth and popularity that are all so meaningless, worthless and passing. So I enjoy Downton. I’m a 20th Century man. I refuse to tweet, twitter, or twerp (birds do that), or to call an electronic message a “text” or take a photo with a phone. My young’uns call me a Neanderthal, but probably more appropriately, I’m a throw-back member of the Abby staff. So be it! I wonder, however, why the popularity of the Abby and its antiquated folks with so many young people who are faithful fans. Could it be that somewhere in the dark recesses of their minds the Abby rings that bell of something more human, and gentle, and charming that they’d truly like to be. They most likely can’t and wouldn’t even try to name it; but they can watch it and enjoy being reminded who they once were. I think I’ll stay warm inside and watch the snow melt until season three arrives. I wonder if John Bates will get out of prison?

Father Bob Layne is a retired Episcopal Priest living in McPherson.