Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let it snow...

I'm sitting by the window, listening to Bach's Double Violin Concerto in D minor 2nd movement, and watching the snow gently fall. I know its a bit odd, but it just seems to me that the snow is in some way listening to the same music I am and dancing on its way down. Yes, I realize that the snow is inanimate, but what an amazing beauty it has and what a way it has of stirring the soul.

And then I ponder on the fact that each one of those snowflakes has a unique expression all its own. Can it really be? There are millions and each one lasts such a short time.. and yet those who study snow have never found one to be exactly identical.

This was first discovered by Wilson Alwyn Bentley (a fellow Vermonter I might add) in 1885, when photography was still a fairly new invention. He discovered that every ice crystal is unique and grows symmetrically in a 6-sided hexagon around a tiny nucleus. Whether the growing shape from that nucleus becomes concentric or dendritic [branching] depends on various factors including temperature and water content.

In general terms warmer temperatures produce rapidly developing crystals that are lacy, whereas lower temperatures will slow the growth of the patterned extenuation and produce denser concentric layers. If growing in isolation the formations of each crystal will tend to be more perfectly symmetrical. All the power of beauty is in the form, as the crystals are colour-less, teamed with the inclusion of streams of light through various densities of microscopic ice shafts, ridges and anomalies.

Anyway, thats part of the 'scientific' aspect of it, and I am thankful to those who have been able to show us in pictures what we can not see with the natural eye. And yet, even if we did not know these things, the falling snow is no less beautiful. I love this quote by Thoreau, who it seems knew the uniqueness of the snowflake, even though he lived before he could ever see these images:

"How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.
Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity, so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand." - Henry David Thoreau

There are so many poets and artists who have been inspired by the beauty of the snow. Here are two:

"Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garment shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-field forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow." - Longfellow

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