the Truth about Snowflakes


The truth about snowflakes is not as they would have you believe. Yes, there is the ideal, perfect little snowflake fluttering down slowly from the sky; the baby in the arms; the child that must be protected from any harm; the emotionally fragile liberal that cries bully when someone is just being an asshole, or can’t understand how someone could vote for Donald Trump.

Well, I’m calling bullshit, because I know a thing or two about snowflakes.

Snowflakes, which are endlessly diverse, though remarkably similar, are formed through adversity. High in the atmosphere, water coalesces and freezes upon a mote of dust, a grain of pollen, volcanic ash, silt blown from the Sahara and carried across the sea.

A microclimate forms around the snowflake. Minute variations in temperature, wind speed, humidity, and countless other details affect the forming of the snow crystal as it’s buffeted and blown about in this harsh environment.

The truth about snowflakes is that they change, they meld and coalesce, they reinvent themselves to suit the time, the temperature, and the pressure that they’re under.

Shortly after snow hits the ground, almost immediately, it begins to go through the first of many metamorphoses. The crystalline branches, if that’s the type of snow that was falling, begin to fold, pressed inward as more of their kin pile upon one another. And as more snow falls, as the snowflakes’ original forms shift, the spaces between them diminish. The snowflakes are pressed closer. The fluffy, airy spaces between them contract, points of contact solidify and harden. This process continues throughout the winter through freeze and thaw and as more snow falls. Over time, the snowflakes come together to form a continuous, insulating blanket.

Below the snowpack there is a space that forms called the subnivean zone. This is an area of warmer air between the breathing ground, which radiates heat, and the harsh environment above. The subnivean zone is an area where the smaller critters, more vulnerable to cold and predation, can seek refuge. There are trails that form, entire highways below the snow that are well worn and traveled. There is food, and warmth, and safe passage for those that need it.

When there are fewer snowflakes and no unified snowpack, it is the vulnerable that suffer.


And snowflakes are not passive. They can move with tremendous speed and incredible force. Once loosened, an avalanche can reach speeds of 80mph within 5 seconds.

And as this fuming cascade of snowflakes, unified in their singular purpose, goes rushing downhill, they become a single irrefutable event burying and smothering all opposition until it asphyxiates.

So, make no mistake — this is the truth about snowflakes.

and into the sterling new

It’s been awhile.  And a lot has gone on.  A trip or two and some woods and hikes and fishes and great raging swarms of mosquitoes and in the end I find myself lagging far, far behind in penning my thoughts here, in this forum.  Why, I wonder…and I largely think it’s due to tedium, and maybe having nothing to say..other than what I believe, which seems sometimes better left unsaid.  Or shared only in more quieter, less populous spaces.  And with those you love.

Of course it’s all that, and not that at all, which seems to be the point.  Again and again.

It could also be that life happens.  Life happens, and patterns you’ve put in place for yourself, intentionally or otherwise, either replicate themselves accordingly, carrying you along is a predictable stream, or a variable imports itself and the equation comes undone.  So, I got a new job, and I’ve been busy with that (which is good) and the time I have to spend, when broken down between family and friends and time spent outside in gardens or woods, leaves little for the tap tapping of syllables into the


I’ve been tasked, if you can call it that, with making some serious outdoor learning stuff happen (and algebra).  As serious as can be on a square block that’s mostly concrete with some smatters of trees and green thrown in between.  And then the privilege of field trips to the forest preserves and, I hope, some of the places that I’ve come to enjoy and love over this past year.

The blog’s a year old now, by the way, and I’ve learned a lot this year.  Enough to realize how much more I need to learn.  A lot.  But beside what I’ve learned, and learned that I need to learn, the time that I have dedicated to being out and about, and sitting around, has been transformative.  Not that my life has changed, because it hasn’t; but then, it also has.  I haven’t kept scrupulous records of how much time spent, but with a recent revisit to the Porkies last month, I think I can safely say that I’ve logged at the very least a week and a half of steady nature time all year.  A week an a half meaning 200andsomeodd hours.  That’s not bad, and it could be more.  I really don’t think less, and that’s not including messing around in the garden.  That seems significant.

I’m going to make an effort to keep this up.  It seems worth it.  I walked around the block with 5th and 6th graders last week and asked, “What is nature, really?” as one of my students phrased it.  Wondered if it’s possible to have a healthy environment for human beings, but an unhealthy environment for other beings…meaning, are these environments we consider healthy for ourselves really so, or has our conception of environmental health become so diminished that we can’t even tell the difference?  And then, misunderstanding the word biodiversity, someone came up with the idea of ‘biodiscrimination’, which is fascinating to me.  Think monocultures.

So, that’s that.  Here’s a picture that I like.

LilyPad in the Clouds

LilyPad in the Clouds