January 10, 2011 - accumulated frozen water vapourBecause of the particular “shape” of the water molecule, water vapour forms a six-pointed crystalline structure called a “snowflake” when it freezes. In cold climates, water vapour aloft forms snowflakes that fall to earth, blanketing the ground for months in the winter. Since snowflakes are light and don’t cling together in cold temperatures, even a slight wind will pick them up and carry them for miles until they reach some sheltered spot where they settle in “drifts.” As the weather warms in spring, these drifts and the snow blanket gradually melt leaving ponds and rivulets of water.
That’s all there is to know about snow.
But wait. If that’s all there is to it, why does it awaken in me such strong, distinct instincts and feelings?
Driving home from church yesterday morning, the threads and wisps of snow drifting across the road awoke in me a spiritual memory. Part déjà vu, it recalled to mind a moment of looking through the back window of the horse-drawn caboose when I was very young, on this very same road, watching the drifting snow begin to fill in again the rude tracks the horses’ hooves and sled runners had made.
Silently drifting snow evokes a pensiveness, a nostalgia for things beyond the ability to describe as if of days lived before one was born, before fathers and mothers were born, before recorded time itself. Snow and wind together have always been, will be after the last traces of life on earth have been eroded into nothingness and the earth sinks again into the quiet of the universe. Snow is drifting today over the graves of my parents, my grandparents, my daughter, my brother. Sooner or later, it will drift silently over mine.
I confess a kinship with the inchworm—“measuring the marigolds.” But something is lost when we assume that size, colour are all there is to know about marigolds, or clouds, or music, or art . . . or snow. If it were, then there would be no art, no music, no reason even to walk out into the world.
There would only be data.
The drifting snow has awakened in me a peace that defies explanation. I long to sit on a hill in the Grasslands National Park out of sight of all human activity . . .
. . . and watch the snow drift.