Snow Lessons

Dan FitzPatrick

By: Dan FitzPatrick 

The recent local snowstorm was not as problematic as feared (thankfully), but it left a beautiful reminder of how magical New England can appear in the winter. Thick blankets of pure white snowpack dusted with specks of ice that sparkle like tiny diamonds in the bright, clear, frosty (actually quite cold) sunlit winter air, untouched save for the cleared streets and sidewalks still treacherous for a slip or fall. A sight and feeling even Norman Rockwell would fail to capture in totality.

Growing up in the mountainous reaches of upstate New York, I’ve seen – and dealt with – a lot of snow. Snow piled so high at street intersections that cars had to stop and creep forward to watch for crossing traffic. We walked to school in those days, regardless of weather (no, it wasn’t “uphill both ways”), and I honestly recall the snow reaching my 11-year-old chest while shoveling the sidewalk in front of our house. Amazingly, I think I can count on one hand the number of days our school or town shut down because of the snow.

I’m not trying to go all “Wonder Years” with this. If I had my preference today, snow would be principally on the mountains (preferably in the ski resorts) and only transiently on my lawn and driveway where I can appreciate it for a day or so before it moves on. But last week’s snow got me thinking about some larger issues, which helped me gain some perspective on the current difficulties we all are experiencing, individually and collectively, in our homes and businesses, locally, state-wide, nationally and globally.

We are told that no two snowflakes are the same. I’ve long had an issue believing that. According to the Library of Congress (which I still consider a reliable information source notwithstanding the fact that it has the word “Congress” in its name), about 1 septillion (a trillion trillion, or 1 with 24 zeroes after it) snow crystals drop from the sky each year. On its face, that statistic would seem to prove my point – how in the world could there be that many variations on what appears to be a simple geometric theme based on the single component of water?

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