It’s fuzzy and a little hard to see, but in this photo that @aliveeverywhere took last winter is something that’s supposed to be impossible – identical flakes of snow.
I posted last year about Wilson Bentley, the most famous and all-time best photographer of snowflakes, and how he gave to the world the idea that no two are alike.
If you read that post, you’ll know that the idea has been disputed – identical snowflakes have been grown in labs, and apparently found at high altitude from a weather observation plane. But these are rare exceptions.
As is the case in the photo above, for what made these two flakes identical is that they are conjoined twins. Snowflakes are all different for the simple reason that they are propagated on a long journey earthwards, and since no two can take exactly the same path, no two will have had the same exact varying conditions of temperature, air pressure and humidity as they fall. Unless they happen to be stuck together right from their conception, and that, I think, is what my snow-collecting companion found; conjoined twin snowflakes.
In Snow I wittered on about opposites, and how things that ought, paradoxically, to be mutually contradictory are entirely possible and real – for example, how a single flake of snow is so fragile and weak, while an avalanche or a glacier (fossilised snowflakes if you like) can change the face of the world.
That’s obvious but true, and what’s also obvious is what this means for us. Individually we’re pretty weak, usually, but together we can move mountains. And aside from the rare cases of twins, just like the snowflakes we are all different, and that difference is worth paying no attention to at all, while, simultaneously, greatly celebrating. That’s another apparent contradiction, but one we could learn from too. We don’t need to lurch to one viewpoint or another. We can hold opposites in us and find ourselves in a better place of balance as a result.
The world as viewed through Twitter appears to be increasingly full of people who probably would describe themselves as liberal, while building higher walls around themselves and their positions, retreating into ever more isolated camps. In the world as viewed through my window it has just started snowing again, as I write. Down come the snowflakes, working in harmony. Or to steal and adapt a line about migrating geese from Karine Polwart’s Wind Resistance, there they are; ‘wee socialists in the sky.’
Who will win the race to extinction? Snow, or us? Either way, the weather ahead looks to be hard, and while we’re still here, we could do worse than to work together.
Listen to the snow.