One of my favorite memories reaches back into my childhood when I was about 7 or 8 years old. It was late on a Christmas Eve night when my dad began shoveling snow to clear our driveway so that we could get out to attend church. I went outside with him and for some unknown reason, this very ordinary, but incredibly beautiful moment, became a permanent memory in my brain.
The snow was falling densely in those large, moist chunks that look as though they were pieces of tissue torn apart by God’s very hand. At the time I thought of Ivory flakes…….The night was clear, not too cold, and very still except for the sound of my father’s snowshovel scraping the driveway. The moonlight fell onto the pristine snow, and I remember how it glittered and sparkled like diamonds. I felt the moment so deeply, the beauty of the snow and the stillness, the joy of Christmas, the love of my parents, all wrapped up as a memory gift for me. I twirled around, head back, mouth open, catching the large snowflakes on my tongue, and felt such exhilaration. This may be why I remember it all these years later. It was a moment in time so intense that it would never be forgotten.
Doesn’t everyone have a snow story? The time your car slipped into a snowbank, the time you were snowed in…there are almost as many scenarios as snowflakes. Speaking of snowflakes, you know how we heard that no two snowflakes are alike? Well, I learned that two identical snowflakes were discovered…once, somewhere, though the details haven’t been noted! Someone should have been taking notes. Still, it’s highly unlikely that any two complex snowflakes will look exactly alike. It’s SO unlikely that if you looked at every single one ever made, you would not find any duplicates.
By studying the intricasy of individual snowflakes, as you can do here in this hub, you can see that their fragile beauty is breathtaking and complex, as comparable to any great work of art. The fact that the are only with us for a very short time before melting away into ordinary rain water forces us to appreciate their designs, as unique as our fingerprints.
Snowflakes are created by water droplets freezing onto small ice particles. As they fall through the clouds, they bump into each other, melting, refreezing and slowly building into unique designs. Snowflakes always have six sides, though I don’t understand why! The shape and form of a snowflake depends on both the temperature and the moisture in the snow clouds. The main types of snowflakes are: plates (flat), stars, columns, dendrites, lacy, needle, and capped columns. In extremely cold temperatures, the snow is fine and powdery. Under these circumstances, the snowflake’s design is quite simple, and is usually needle or rod-shaped. But near the freezing point, they grow in size and take on a much more complex design, such as a star. The average snowflake falls at a speed of 3.1 miles an hour, just in case you want to repeat that with some degree of condescending authority at your next cocktail party.
The world’s largest snowflake (you wanted to know, right?) was 38 centimeters wide and 20 centimeters thick (that would be 15 inches wide and 8 inches thick) at Fort Keogh, Montana on January 28, 1887. Now, how do they know that since then, a larger one hasn’t been found? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound? So, if a gigantic, record breaking snowflake falls, and no one sees it, does it still win? Who knows?
Really, this is all that you’ll ever need to know about snowflakes. Not that you need to know anything at all about them to enjoy their pristine beauty. The next time you walk out into a snowfall, put your head back, open your mouth, stick your tongue out, and have a moment, will you?