Snowflake. What is a snowflake? An astonishing, amazing formation of H2O in its solid form. Snowflakes are unique, each different from all others, with its own structure and appearance, yet made of the very same material. Some are very angular and sharp, some more softly rounded and pillow-like. Poetry often describes snowflakes and their accumulation as pure, holy, light incarnate. Snow is sometimes used as a metaphor for good, blessings. Driven snow is one of the most favored analogies for purity.
Snowflakes form when the temperature turns cold, frigid. What become adverse or inhospitable to humans creates snowflakes from the raw material out of thin air. Howling winds, tall buildings, even mountains do not prevent their formation, their ability to travel, or their effectiveness. When many snowflakes gather together they produce various results. They can create sparkling landscapes, gently blanketing the sleeping ground like a fluffy white comforter. Cushions of puffy snow adorn the branches of trees, glinting in the sunlight. Snowscapes are frequently the feature of calendars, paintings, and framed photographs because we humans find them beautiful whether they cover a meadow or a village in the deeps of winter. Accumulations of snowflakes have provided endless hours of fun for children: building snowmen, ramps, snow forts, making snow angels. Animals enjoy playing in the snow as well, romping and jumping into deep snow.
When large amounts of snowflakes gather together, they can also create hazards. Roads become slick, sidewalks slippery, and sometimes even structural failure occurs due to the weight of the snowflakes when a roof cannot take the pressure of several feet of snowfall.
When the winds of fate blow snowflakes together, drifts may form and cause difficulty with progress on roads or exiting a house if it gets too deep for the door to open. Sometimes thoroughfares are closed because of the aggregation of snowflakes. Snowflakes are fragile and delicate by themselves, but together they can perform amazing feats. In higher elevations, large groups of snowflakes, when poked, prodded, or otherwise disturbed by loud cries or noises, can suddenly become that dreaded natural disaster…an avalanche. An avalanche can devastate everything in its path.
A snowflake’s existence is fleeting though. They can be deconstructed by heat in mere moments, although it takes longer to melt large groups of them together. But they don’t disappear. No. Snowflakes are flexible, malleable, and like some miraculous chameleon, as they melt they do not vanish, destroyed. Rather, they shape-shift, they transform into something else, a different pattern, a new design. Water. Snowflakes can turn to water which also can be gorgeous, provide entertainment for humans, and serve as the habitat for some of earth’s most amazing creatures. More importantly, water is something we all absolutely require to survive in this world. But, while we depend on water for our survival, it can become dangerous if not treated with respect. Tides, undercurrents, tsunamis, flooding all can ravage our world at the behest of nature. Water is one of, if not the most, insidious substances on earth. Given time, it can and will pry its way into any house, smooth jagged rocks which fall into its realm, create meandering rivers, and carve gigantic caverns above and below the earth’s surface.
Eventually, when the water that used to be snowflakes is spent, it evaporates. But still it does not disappear. It once again performs its magic by shape-shifting into a gas. Moist air helps us when we have a stuffy nose and can also make us feel even warmer in the summer when the humidity is high. Some of it returns to its liquid form in the morning as the temperatures change and provides us with masterful views of dew-draped spider webs, droplets clinging to grain, or coating our lawns. Most of it rises from the ground, elevating through the atmosphere to be collected in the clouds and eventually return to earth in another of its trilogy of forms, as rain or more snowflakes, back for another day.
Snowflakes. Delicate. Fragile. But just like avalanches, they can change the landscape of our world. Do I want to be a snowflake? Absolutely.