In Paradise, A Prayer For More Snowmobilers

Ordained minister Edson Forrester presides over the Paradise, Michigan 's annual snowmobile blessing . Edson burns cedar and tobacco, then spreads smoke over each vehicle, saying, "Creator, protect this snowmobile on its travels." This year, people in Paradise say they're adding an extra prayer for a better economy next year — and more snowmobilers. [Photo by David Green/NPR]
Ordained minister Edson Forrester presides over the Paradise, Michigan ‘s annual snowmobile blessing . Edson burns cedar and tobacco, then spreads smoke over each vehicle, saying, “Creator, protect this snowmobile on its travels.” This year, people in Paradise say they’re adding an extra prayer for a better economy next year — and more snowmobilers. [Photo by David Green/NPR]

I’ll admit it. Like school children everywhere who hope for a serendipitous day off, I’ve prayed for snow. It takes a lot of prayers (and snow), to close a university, mad this morning our prayers were answered.

I never prayed for snowmobiles, and never will. That’s what they do every winter in Paradise, Michigan. The town’s name makes sense on a sunny day in August  when you look east across  Lake Superior’s vast Whitefish Bay, but Paradise can look pretty bleak in winter unless you’re charmed by Arctic grandeur. I pass through Paradise almost every day in my mind, and I keep on going north to Whitefish Point, a truly awesome, numinous place in any season. In my mind I hear the roar of twelve-foot breakers piling brash ice and bergy bits on a lonely shore. I don’t hear snowmobiles.

Nonetheless, snow machines are numinous for some in Paradise.
David Green told the story this morning on NPR:

… on this day, the diehard snowmobilers have come — to a snowy field on the edge of town, for the annual snowmobile blessing. Looking like astronauts in their thick snowsuits and helmets, they’re gathered around a fire. Remember that bit about snowmobiling being like a religion?

“Creator of the heaven and the Earth, give blessing to these snowmobilers,” says ordained minister Edson Forrester, who is in charge of the annual blessing. “God, we ask for your guiding light when blizzards leave us blind, when accidents leave us alone in the dark.”

… Before they head out, the minister holds smoking bunches of cedar and tobacco up to each of their snowmobiles. Tobacco, the minister says, is known to carry prayers up to God.

“Creator, protect this snowmobile on its travels. Give it safe passage so it can find its way home,” he says.

For the record, even though I abjure the noise pollution of most internal combustion machines, the sound of dump trucks hauling gravel to Paradise saved me once when lost in the fog on Whitefish Bay.

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