Thursday, December 5, 2013


Is it True that No Two Snowflakes Are Alike?


I woke up this morning and the house seemed just a little bit brighter.  When you live in Alaska, any amount of extra daylight is noticed.   As I rounded the corner of the living room, I let out a small gasp.    Last night, as we all silently slept, mother nature was busy pouring out a thick blanket of snow. 
It has only been two years since we lived in Arizona, so snow is still a very new and exciting thing.  I am guessing that after years of shoveling, de-icing walkways, and using a hair dyer to pry open frozen car doors, winter will lose some of its magical wonder.  But, today the sight of the landscape buried in deep snow takes my breath away and I just stare in wonder at how beautiful everything looks.  There are large ice sheets lining the banks of the river and the tree branches are bowing down slightly from the weight of the snow. The water is moving in irregular patterns because of the thin coating of ice in slow moving areas.  I tie my robe up a little tighter and slip on my fleece lined boots so I can step out on the deck and greet the morning with a full breath of crisp, clear, winter air…..and then take this picture to preserve the moment. 
We have a large pine tree that is nestled up against our deck and the snow covered branches are within reach, so I scoop up a handful of frigid bliss.  As I look at the snow in my hand, I peer down, ever so focused, trying to see the individual patterns and designs of the snowflakes.  Now that I am in my 40's, I have to hold my arm outstretched to bring everything into focus (my doctor says I have a condition known as "too many candles on the cake"). I hope to see the beauty of the snow crystals I know to be present, but all my eyes can view are the fluffy specs of snow. 
I began to wonder if any two snowflakes are alike…and what do I do when I wonder….well I google, of course.  My search lead me to discover Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley.  In1885 he perfected the art of catching snowflakes on black velvet which allowed him to photograph them before they melted.  This technique is still used today.  Wilson produced such amazing pictures that hardly anyone else bothered to photograph snowflakes for almost 100 years.  These pictures have been published in a book called Snow Crystals and is simply amazing.  Wilson described snowflakes as "tiny miracles of beauty" and as "ice flowers".  I can already feel our planned school day shifting to a frozen subject.  Now, what kids wouldn't want to learn more about snow?
As I sip my morning coffee, I am in awe at pictures others have taken of the seemingly simple, never seen by the naked eye, snowflake.  My kids are now joining me at the computer and our morning math plans quickly shifed to science as we began learning about how water droplets or snow crystals start virtually identical, but their journey makes them unique.  In essence, snowflakes are extremely sensitive.  The air and temperature around the crystal are constantly changing, and even small changes in these conditions lead to different growth patterns.  The snow crystal is affected by altitude, wind, humidity, and numerous other factors.  No two ice crystals have the same history, so they do not  grow in the same way.  The journey that the ice crystal encounters determines the shape and pattern.  Hmmmm…I think to myself … kinda like life!
Snowflakes for science turned into snowflakes for art and we began making paper snowflakes to hang in the windows.  Each creation was a complete surprise as it was opened up to display the patterns and shapes. This opened up the door for discussions on peer pressure and pressures of the world.  It seemed as though the lessons from snowflakes just kept going.
So, all day I have had snowflakes on the brain.  I have thought about the beauty and complexity of these white flakes.  Just as no two snowflakes are exactly alike, neither are two people or two families.  Each person and each family has its own strengths and challenges.  What may look perfect on the outside, displays complexities upon a closer look.  We all have struggles and are wonderfully different.  We all have a unique design and journey.    

1 comment:

  1. Love it, Traci! Insightful and thought-provoking!

    Blessings, Julie Machakos