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October's fickle weather

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By Sylvia Brockner

The circular table on the patio looks like a humongous marshmallow or a giant birthday cake. The weathermen are predicting more snow tonight. I can’t believe we have this much snow in October. It looks more like the storm and quantity of snow that we usually get in spring storms. Kind neighbors have kept my driveway plowed. Three times today!

And it is still coming down. We have at least two feet now and it is still coming down. If the weather forecasts are right, it is supposed to be warm enough next week to melt most of it. Snow is piled everywhere as James Russel Lowell wrote,

“ Snow had begun in the gloaming

and busily all the night

Had been heaping field and highway

With a silence deep and white.”

The outdoor chairs where I sat a few days ago soaking up the sun now looks like overstuffed furniture, and I’m not going out to sit in the snow. Our first snowstorm seldom comes this early. In fact, locals say it usually comes on Halloween, which, as I write, is still four days away. I find this early storm unexpected, disconcerting and depressing. As I look out the window at the white wonderland, it is beautiful, but the greatest solace I can find is that it is water. Just water in a frozen form.

Water is life. The first forms of life probably developed in water, and all forms of life on the planet need water to survive. This storm should soak in to the ground as the ground was not yet frozen and hopefully give us more underground water for our wells and wildlife to drink. This was mostly an up-slope storm with gulf moisture being flung back against the mountains, but water is water, no matter what form it is in and this moisture that fell on the Eastern Slope, will melt and trickle away into streams, creeks and rivers until it gets to the Mississippi, which will return it to the gulf from which it came. Here it will evaporate into moisture vapor (clouds) and start its journey all over again. When moisture vapor becomes chilled, it falls as rain or snow depending upon the air temperature. Snowflakes are crystallizing water and are almost always six-sided. Sometimes at very high altitudes with extreme cold, the crystals form in a tubular shape but are still, in cross section, built on the usual six-sided plane.

Many years ago Mr. W. A. Bentley of Jaricho, Vt., started photographing snowflakes on glass plates. He set his camera in an outbuilding, (unheated woodshed), captured the snowflakes on a small piece of board covered with black cloth, and then took this into the shed to photograph it. It must have been awfully cold work and difficult to focus quickly, not breathe on the snowflake or it would melt, and to not break the glass plates with numb fingers. So difficult, that no one seems to have attempted it since. In the 1940s some of his collection was put up for sale and was purchased by the Buffalo Museum of Science where they are still to be found today. Because he never found two snowflakes that were identical, it became an accepted fact that each snowflake was unique. This may well be true but when you think of the trillions of snowflakes that fall, it is highly unlikely that anyone would capture two that were alike. So perhaps it is more accurate to say that no two identical snowflakes have ever been found.

I am amazed the other day to hear on T.V. news that kids were bored when they had a day off from school because of the snow. We loved to have a day off and thought it even better when it was two or three. We played out in the snow until we were wet and cold; they didn’t make snowsuits then like they do today. When we came in we had all kinds of activities like making paper snowflakes, etc. Then we made fudge or other home made treats, had hot chocolate in front of the fireplace, read to ourselves or mother read to all of us, then we suited up again in dry clothes and went down the road a half mile where the hill began and the snow drifted to shovel dad out so he could get home for dinner.

This is how we made six-sided snowflakes. The thinner the paper the better because you will be cutting through six layers of paper when it is folded. We liked tissue paper the best. Small sharp scissors are a must. If a child is too small to use them, an adult can do the cutting.

Have fun!