Snow is Sensitive – Writing Prompt
The epigraph to a chapter in a book I've been reading off and on for months, titled To Breathe With Birds by Václav Cílek, goes like this:
A snowflake is an ideal New Year's gift for a mathematician. It looks like a star and comes from heaven.
– Johannes Kepler
The chapter is titled, “The Six-Cornered Snowflake” and begins with the question, “are stars more reasonable than people?” The chapter tells the story of Kepler and how “a six-cornered snowflake descended on his overcoat in the winter of 1610 somewhere between the Stone Bridge and his home in Jezuitská street.” Kepler's relationship, such as it was with Tycho Brahe, is touched upon before the author delves into Kepler's questioning of the snowflake (why six corners, etc). The essay ends with a short history of the snowflake.
Did you know that the shape of the snowflake is determined by temperature? Cílek says,
“At negative three to five degrees Celsius snow needles develop best, at negative five to negative eight degrees Celsius hollow snow columns grow, and at even lower temperatures we can find thin snow plates and other shapes according to the falling temperature. Snow is so sensitive to temperature that in borderline intervals it is a matter of just one degree Celsisus that causes different shapes to fall from the sky.”
The snow has been so various. Large fluffy flakes, and then later, the salt shaker pouring down on us. It's hard to believe January is at an end.
The blessings of winter are various, too. Soon it will be February and so we may begin to read all the February poems, like this one by Denise Levertov.
February Evening in New York
by Denise Levertov
As the stores close, a winter light
opens air to iris blue,
glint of frost through the smoke
grains of mica, salt of the sidewalk.
As the buildings close, released autonomous
feet pattern the streets
in hurry and stroll; balloon heads
drift and dive above them; the bodies
aren't really there.
As the lights brighten, as the sky darkens,
a woman with crooked heels says to another woman
while they step along at a fair pace,
“You know, I'm telling you, what I love best
is life. I love life! Even if I ever get
to be old and wheezy—or limp! You know?
Limping along?—I'd still ... ” Out of hearing.
To the multiple disordered tones
of gears changing, a dance
to the compass points, out, four-way river.
Prospect of sky
wedged into avenues, left at the ends of streets,
west sky, east sky: more life tonight! A range
of open time at winter's outskirts.
I love the way in the Levertov poem, things are closing, but they are also opening up, to noticing, to hearing. The winter light itself seems to cast a different light on things, on people, that lends itself to seeing anew.
It's been a while since I've offered up a writing prompt, so here are two for you:
1. Write about noticing the winter light. Follow the light and see where it takes you. Perhaps you will walk down a wintery street and overhear a conversation.
2. Begin by writing: Snow is......
If you like, feel free to share your writings on snow or winter light in the comments.