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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

The Snowflake ~ Winter's Secret Beauty

Sunday, February 8, 2015

One recent winter found me alone, rattling around inside the empty house 
with a record-breaking snowfall coming down with big, fluffy 
individual snowflakes falling faster and faster. 

As the snow swirled outside, I pulled out 

The Snowflake, Winter's Secret Beauty,  
written by Kenneth Libbrecht and with photography by Patricia Rasmussen,  
is a beautiful book filled with hundreds of large photos of snowflakes 
to illustrate the science and artistry of snowflake formations. 

As the snowstorm continued into the night and 
throughout the next day, I bundled up, peered out the windows, 
and thought, "The snow is just like a movie snow." 
Quietly it fell, hour after hour, creating a hushed landscape. 
Bit by bit, the traffic on the roads disappeared, 
and all was silent. 

All alone I was free to do what I wanted without a schedule. 

It was too cold for me to want to build a snowman, 
or to go sledding, or to join in a snowball fight. 

However, I wanted to experience the magic of the snow, 
to enjoy its beauty, and to do something. 
As I read through The Snowflake, Winter's Secret Beauty, 
I decided to use a magnifying glass to look at snowflakes. 
Yes, to look at snow with a little French flair! 

Yes, French flair can be used to watch snowflakes. 

After all, it was a Frenchman who recorded the 
first lengthy mathematical description of snowflake structures. 

RenĂ© Descartes, 
French philosopher and mathematician, 
a man after my own heart or 
am I a woman after his own heart?, 
is credited with the earliest detailed account 
of snow-crystal structure in 1637. 

With just his naked eyes, he observed snowflakes and wrote could as well have described them as little crystal columns, decorated at each end with a six-petalled rose a little larger than their base... 

Bundled in a water-proof coat and gloves, I stood at our back French doors 
and held my left arm out the door to catch falling snowflakes on the black sleeve. 
Then, using the magnifying glass in my right hand, I examined 
flake after flake, looking for a 

P E R F E C T  ❆  S N O W F L A K E 

with all six of its sides intact. 
Periodically, I closed the door to warm up 
and then began anew looking for those perfect snowflakes. 

With french flair,  
I found one! 

One little snowflake stood on edge, rose above my sleeve, 
and glistened as I looked at it with the magnifying glass. 

One perfect snowflake created a memory of pure, perfect joy. 

Scenes around the house after the two-day snowfall 

For my snowbird blogger friends, 
our snowfall is nothing compared to what you receive every winter, 
but for several days that winter the world stood still here in North Texas. 

If you have never looked at snowflakes with a magnifying glass, 
you must do it. 


Life is often hectic with deadlines and with unexpected twists. 
Here's hoping February brings some respite from the world. 

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