The day started with a welcome, early morning phone message delivering good news-the school year's first snow delay. At our house, these messages result in smiles, cheers, or sighs of relief. Dave would get some additional, much-needed sleep. And I would get to run in the snow. I love running in the snow, so I layered on my clothes and laced up my shoes, feeling grateful for this unexpected gift. Lately, running has felt like a chore-just another task to check off of my to-do list, just something I do to keep from feeling guilty and gaining weight. This morning was different.
I shuffled down the quiet streets, reflecting on my fascination with snow-running. Even though I dislike the cold, I love the snow. Like a soft, comfy blanket with nourishing powers, the snow dances fluidly toward the earth and covers us. It makes us clean. It makes us quiet. It makes us calm. The snow grants us an excuse to slow down and to find joy in simple things. It causes us to pause and to see beauty.
When I run in the snow, I am at peace.
When I run in the snow, I often marvel over the fact that no two snowflakes are alike. Sometimes, that marveling leads to thoughts of Snowflake Bentley and then smiles and even giggles as I remember how I first heard about him. It was several winters ago, when Dave was still a bachelor and was living with his friend Tim. Tim told us a story of this farmer-man who lived in New England and was passionate, even obsessed, with snowflakes. Wilson Bentley's claim to fame is that he was the first to theorize that no two snowflakes are alike, based on thousands of pictures and observations that he made about snowflakes during many a snowy winter in Vermont. After Tim told us the history of Mr. Bentley, which already seemed a little far-fetched to us, he then went a little further and insisted that he was related to him. Knowing Tim, we had to believe that he was just joking and having a good time. I'm not sure that we gave Snowflake Bentley another passing thought, at least until Tim and Erin named their second child after him.
Then we started to believe Tim, and after some research, found that the tale that Tim told of his famous relative is actually true. Amazing-a boy is fascinated with the snow as he grows up on a farm. He (and his family) sacrifice to allow him to pursue his passion. He rigs up his own contraption to take photos of the snow crystals and begins to chronicle his findings. People in his hometown think he's crazy. But scientists around the world begin to believe him and acknowledge his great contribution to science. In this article, Bentley calls himself the preserver. He helps people to understand and appreciate the intricate beauty and design of a snowflake-that each one is different based on several different factors impacting its creation. This kind of beauty is all around us-we just need to take the some time to study our surroundings. Beauty takes time.
As the story goes, Snowflake Bentley died when he contracted pneumonia after a long walk during a blizzard. Here's to hoping we can honor his memory by pointing others toward that which is beautiful today.
-Wilson A. "Snowflake" Bentley, 1925