Page One hundred seventeen

Mozart’s birthday (i.e. Thurs 27 Jan), 2011

The Snowflake…. text by Libbrecht, photos by Rasmussen

I mentioned in a post last week — and at the moment I’ve forgotten which one — my failed attempts on Jan 18, 19 and 20 to see some really good snowflakes with a magnifying glass. Most of what I got to see were small ice-clumps with ice-needles sticking out of them. Turns out that wasn’t the fault of my equipment. It was the kind of snow we were having. All we got on those days were the needle flakes, and in their early stages of melting they clumped together. Also saw a number of teeny hexagonal ice plates, evidence of a six-pointer that had already deteriorated. I was very disappointed at the time, and feared that this would be all I’d ever see.

It was in the book noted at the top of the page that I first learned I could look at details in snowflakes with nothing fancier than my reading glasses and a drugstore magnifying glass, and I only learned it last year. Way too late to have this particular kind of snowflake fun with my dogs and cats. Total cost for this fun: six bucks for eyeglasses and ten for the magnifier. This book is full of nothing less than dazzling photographs of snowflakes, and great scientific text that’s written in a very reader-friendly fashion. If you like snow at all, you should really experience this book. I couldn’t read all of the text, of course, because I have such a hard time reading print books now, but I did get through some of the science gems here and there.

Two days ago, on the birthday of Robert Burns, I had the snowflake experience I was waiting for. We had the perfect weather conditions, finally, for nearly perfect snowflakes. These crystals that were falling Tuesday morning were so nearly perfect that as they drifted slowly onto the sleeve of my coat, I could already see with just my reading glasses, before I ever plied the magnifier, wonderful dendrite formations. And when I magnified them, they were as amazing to me as the photos in the book. Maybe even moreso, since these weren’t photos. These were the real, living snowflakes I was looking at, just fallen from the sky.

And in the midst of this great adventure that cost me all of $16, there was sadness too. How much I would have loved doing this on my winter walks with my black dogs, on whose black backs the snowflakes would have shown up beautifully under my glass. Body heat would have melted them quickly, but I could have had some great sights before that. And I can imagine the grudging tolerance that my very good dogs would have given me. Stand still now, Mommy wants to look at your back. And they would stand still, casting me this look of weary but longsuffering patience. Because as any dog knows, when it’s the dog’s idea to stand still, it’s a great idea. But when it’s the human’s idea, it’s merely another human idiocy that a good dog has to endure.

And as always in these thoughts, in these imaginings: what if I still had Mishi and Brainse today, and we were doing this together, the way we did so many things, and they were casting me those looks. What if despicable, viciously aggressive humans had never done the things they did, and my dogs and I were under these snowflakes at this very moment. Where did my dogs get taken to? The people in Turners who know still refuse to tell. How long were they allowed to live before they were given the needle, and where and when did their deaths happen? What became of their bodies? Those certain people in this cesspool who have those answers steadfastly refuse to give those answers to me.

As much as I love those crystals that I saw with my glass, in equal measure do I abhor these humans. As much as I loved those two dogs, and love them still, in equal measure am I sickened by these humans. Give me a dog, give me a snowflake, give me a firefly. But a human being in Turners Falls is a rancid, poisonous thing.


(snowflakes are clippings)

read…  Mugsy’s book

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