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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Valley in Snowtime…

December snowWhose fields these are

I surely know.

They’re working at the  dairy, though;

They will not see me

Walking here to watch

Their cornfields fill with snow….

There was a light snow early this morning, and I’ve left Gladys behind in the garage. As usual I have put off mounting the studded tires on her, and I know should the chance arise she’d take advantage of the slushy roadside to dump me in the weeds.

There’s not much happening in the Valley these days. Christmas has come and gone and though the New Year is fast around the corner, the Valley seems to shrug this all off. The only activity I see this morning is a lone kestrel perched sentinel on the power lines, ever vigilant for a field mouse romping in the snow; if you’re a hawk, you must take your meals when you can.

It seems news has fled the Valley this month. But in this day of intermittent snow flurries, you can find entertainment in the simplest of thingSnowberriess, and as I walk along like an old geezer in a snow globe, I stare upward into the dizzying flakes, single out one from an entire sky of swirling snow, a tiny speck, and follow it to earth. Gaze skyward again; select another; watch it spiral down, growing larger as it spins and tumbles to the ground. This is great fun: provided from time to time you keep track of the posts and poles roadside while your attention is on the heavens.

As I watch the eiderdown fragments of fluff sift down, my thoughts turn, if not philosophical, at least to physics, a subject that kept me off my high school honor roll, but then in that class we never dealt with the important stuff of physics such as the ponderous question: which is heavier, a pound of lead or a pound of snowflakes? Or just how much does a snowflake weigh, anyhow? Does it weigh anything at all? The fact that a flake of snow “falls,” and doesn’t levitate, means it has mass. And isn’t “mass” weight? The Earth has mass; a snowflake likewise, thus they attract each other. That a snowflake is subject to Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation the same way that a falling ten ton boulder is, is hard for me to wrap my mind around. I guess you have to think about snowflakes in the conglomerate, right, like: Smack! The heaviness of a snowball right between your eyes! Or a snowman. Try packing Frosty around for a while. An avalanche? You wouldn’t want that many snowflakes rolling down on you, would you? And think of glaciers: the weight of all those snowflakes standing on each other’s heads have carved valleys into mountainsides. That’s heaviness for you: eons of snowflakes all working together for a common cause. 

Snow dusted ValleyAs I walk along through the falling snow, one question follows another. Do all snowflakes reach the same terminal velocity? Or do some snowflakes fall more slowly than others? What affect does a snowflake’s hexagonal structure have on its  descent to earth? Is an ice crystal the same as a snowflake? What effect, if any, does air pollution have on a snowflake’s formation and mass? Mr. Asplundh, why do I now, a middle-aged man, still have all these questions years beyond your high school physics class? Perhaps because all you talked about most of the school year were your mountaineering experiences? Ah, public education! A wonder we scholars learned anything at all!

Just one more snowSome pretty heady thoughts inspired by the Valley, eh? Be thankful Gladys is still in the garage--Mr. Asplundh never taught us a doggone thing about the coefficient of friction.

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  1. *** Winter’s Snow ***

    A pillow top mattress in the clouds above ,
    A powdery blanket under our feet below .
    Reminds us all of younger times we love ,
    The magical world of Winters Snow .

    The snowflakes fall on the wind and blow ,
    Our hearts and minds rekindle the past .
    Dance down to us all as they put on a show ,
    Winter time is hear again at long last !

  2. First it was a stellar performance in the art of exterior illumination. And now poetry??? What surprises are yet in store for the Ripple in the weeks to come! Thanks and Happy New Year to the Beebes from TJ and the V. Ripple!