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The Beauty of Snow

Jun 7, 2010

Posted by Kimmy Sophia Brown

Here isan inspired bit of writing from Mr. Henry David Thoreau's essay entitled, Travels in Concord. He lived in a cabin onWalden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts from 1845 until 1847, where he observed the natural world. A note to our readers: This would have fit well in the section, An Ecstasyof Nature, but because of the age of the prose, we're placing it inthe section on Bygone Writings. The following is the excerpt:



"The thinsnow now driving from the north and lodging on my coat consists of those beautiful star crystals, not cottony and chubby spokes as on the 13th December, but thin and partly transparent crystals. How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated! I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat. Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.

Adivinity must have stirred with them before the crystals did thus shoot and set. Wheels of the storm-chariots. The same law that shapes the earth-star, shapes the snow-star. As surely as the petals of a flower are fixed, each of these countless snow-stars comes whirling to earth, pronouncing thus, with emphasis, the number six, Order, koomos.

On theSaskatchewan, when no man of science is there to behold, still down they come, and not the less fulfill their destiny, perchance melt at once on the Indian’s face. What a world we live in! Where myriads of these little disks, so beautiful to the most prying eye, are whirled down on every traveler’s coat, the observant and the unobservant, and on the restless squirrel’s fur, and on the far-stretching fields and forests, the wooded dells, and the mountaintops. Far far away from the haunts of man, they roll down some little slope, fall over and come to their bearings and melt or lose their beauty in the mass, ready anon to swell some little rill with their contribution, and so at last, the universal ocean from which they came. There they lie, like the wreck of chariot wheels after a battle in the skies. Meanwhile the meadow mouse shoves them aside in his gallery, the school boy casts them in his snowball, or the woodman’s sled glides smoothly over them, these glorious spangles, the sweeping of heaven’s floor. And they all sing, melting as they sing of the mysteries of the number six - six, six, six. He takes up the water of the sea in his hand, leaving the salt; He disperses it in mist through the skies, He re-collects and sprinkles it like grain in six-rayed snowy stars over the earth to lie till He dissolves its bonds again.

Verylittle evidence of God or men did I see just then, and life not as rich and inviting an enterprise as it should be, when my attention was caught by a snowflake on my coat sleeve. It was one of those perfect, crystalline, star-shaped ones, six-rayed, like a flat wheel with six spokes, only the spokes were perfect little pine trees in shape, arranged around a central spangle. This little object, which, with many of its fellows, rested unmelting on my coat, so perfect and beautiful, reminded me that Nature had not lost her pristine vigor yet, and why should man lose heart? ...I may say that the Maker of the world exhausts his skill with each snowflake and dewdrop that he sends down. We think the one mechanically coheres and that the other simply flows together and falls, but in truth they are the produce of enthusiasm,the children of ecstasy, finished with the artist’s utmost skill."

Image(s) from Wikimedia Commons

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