What if snowflakes had consciousness? What if they sparked into sentience up there in the cloud and on their long, turbulent journey to the ground gave serious thought to the trajectory of their existence? Swirling about, passing some of their fellow flakes, clinging to others, perhaps as brief as a handshake or long as a slow dance, a frantic and zigzagging passage through their adolescence.
And if this were to be true, think how the journey of the snowflake would resemble ours — lots of action and movement early on, followed by a typically gentle glide as they settle into place for the second stage of life.
Okay, so comparisons to people only go so far. But I’ve often thought about those interlocking branches — arms — and how all the individual snowflakes reach out to one another, connect, combine, and making something whole, a snowpack. Billions of them connecting to become something new. Eventually, of course, the snowpack becomes homogenous, isothermic, but in the early stages it exists in a dual state — there is the one, the snowpack, but there are the many, all those flakes that still retain some sense of their own structure and identity.
The calmer and colder the conditions — i.e., the better the powder conditions — the longer those flakes remain as individuals. And so what must it be like for them to be settled, only to have a skier come along and stir the pot, send them flying back into the air, moshing with their fellows until they fall to temporary repose once again? If I were a snowflake, I’d think it was pretty cool.
Photo of Craig DiPietro at Alta, Utah, by Lee Cohen