The Magic of Snow
There is something special about snow falling. Falling soft and light as it is right now outside my window. The first real snow storm of the year.
Oh, how I feel bad for those who have never experienced snow. Especially children who never built a snowman, or woke up to find out school is canceled due to a snowfall that they will soon go out and play in. Who never got to sled down a big hill on a piece of plastic or wood that you have very little control over and may end up in a hidden thorny bush at the bottom.
Or never got to slide into that other kid who was on his way up the hill pulling his sled, causing him to fall on you, then you both go down the hill sandwiched together with your wild laughter floating out on misty breaths.
It comes in so many wonderful “flavors”. There is the soft cottony type that just clings to the branches of trees. As it builds up it gives the impression that everything has been painted with glistening white icing. This type is the best snowman and snowball making snow.
There is the type with a touch of graininess that adds sparkle! When you look out at a lawn of this snow, it looks like someone sprinkled diamonds on it! The extreme of this is when the temperature warms up at the end of the snowstorm causing the flakes to melt and you have a layer of ice over the snow. Now your lawn looks like it is glass covered. When I was a kid we actually skated all around our yard on this layer of ice that covered two feet of snow!
My favorite time to experience a snowstorm is at night. Those tiny snowflakes come down out of the dark and magically appear in front of you. When you glance over at a streetlight, you see them illuminated and floating down. The air is clean and crisp: there is silence. In a rainstorm you hear the droplets hitting the ground and everything around you. In a snowstorm, the impact is silent. Soft falling stealth cold flakes.
Yes, a nighttime snowstorm is the best, because it also leads to that first morning when you look out and the snow is perfect! It’s clean and undisturbed, insulating everything in your view. The poets speak of it looking like a white blanket covering the land, and its true.
All that beauty makes me feel joyous and renewed, and I wish that the pristine yards and fields would remain untouched all winter.
The only time I don’t like snowstorms, are when I have someplace important to go. Or, when the snow lingers around way too long and starts looking dirty, or it snows in May. Yes, we New Englanders can be fickle! For now, early in the winter season, I always long for that magical first snow.
What is snow? It all begins when water vapor freezes straight into a hexagonal (six sided) crystal. From that shape, it will start to grow out the branches and ornamentation we are all familiar with seeing. Yes, six sided is what makes a snowflake, a snowflake.
How can we bring the snowflake magic inside?
Well, technically we can’t. We can try the next best thing, which is to preserve their likenesses.
Have a strong magnifying glass? Good, this is up your alley.
Project A: The Cheap Method:
Hey look, it’s snowing outside!
Quick, grab that clear plastic cover off the last report you handed in at school, or maybe you happen to have a sheet of clear acetate. Place it over a clean rigid surface: I used a cookie baking sheet. Now grab an adult and a spray can of clear top coat. (I’m a fan of Krylon’s Clear) In a well vented area or a sheltered porch, spray a thin layer over your acetate. Try to avoid your face or nose or eyes, please. Wait a couple seconds for it to get tacky. Now hold it out in the falling snow to capture scattered snowflakes for just a second or two, then run inside or cover your sheet. Once inside your snowflakes will melt and leave behind a “footprint” in the acrylic coating. Take out that handy magnifying glass and enjoy!
A little more complicated way of doing this can be found at Kenneth G. Libbrecht’s great website. There you can learn about the science of snowflakes and see his beautiful photos. I happen to own a couple of his books. The images are amazing!
Back to OUR magic gathering. If that sounds like too much effort, or you are reading this at work, you can go old-fashion.
Project B: Yank out some white copy paper from your printer, a small round plate leftover from lunch, scissors borrowed from your co-worker, and you are good to go to make paper snowflakes!
Step 1. Draw a circle and cut it out.
Step 2. Fold in half.
Now comes the tricky part to get it so its six sided:
Steps 3 and 4. Fold it into thirds, bringing the sides equally into the middle. (A side note, this is also the way to make a funnel, or a fast pastry bag, just cut the tip)
Prick a small hole at the top of one of the branches and thread a little bit of string or ribbon through that in order to hang them from your ceiling to create the perfect snowfall, one that will stay forever and you don’t get cold!
If you would like to learn more about snowflakes, or have a reference for cutting out more delicate paper ones, I suggest looking for books by the original snowflake hunter W.A Bentley and the current expert Kenneth G. Libbrecht at snowcrystals.com
Now your room is dripping with beautiful permanent snowflakes.
Have a great winter season! And may it snow softly on you!