My second memory is of snow-making. It was dark. We were in the stairway. Hands of giants were dressing me in heavy clothing as my big brother (two years older) was telling me about this wonderful white cold flaky stuff that fell from the sky. God made this white cold flaky stuff, he said. My brother was very excited, telling me about masses of delicate little pieces of webwork falling and falling, and that this was its own (new to me) particular season. He went into a long and deep analysis of how God accomplished this:
The band of precipitation that is associated with a warm front is often extensive, forced by weak upward vertical motion of air over the frontal boundary, which condenses as it cools off and produces snowfall within an elongated band, which is wide and stratiform, meaning falling out of nimbostratus clouds.
Since we lived not far from one of the Great Lakes he also gave details on lake-effect snowfall:
Where relatively warm water bodies are present, for example because of water evaporation from lakes, lake-effect snowfall becomes a concern downwind of the warm lakes within the cold cyclonic flow around the backside of extratropical cyclones. Lake-effect snowfall can be heavy locally.
And he drew me this diagram.
I’m kidding. He did not go that deeply into it.
Outside wandering in the door-light, I promptly got mad at God because He made the snow get into my eyes so bad I could not see the snow.
As I grew older I became fascinated with the monolithically falling, pure and symmetric, cold white fluffy stuff—but in a more dry, staid, pedantic, analytical way. Since Mark Twain had been known to go to sea in a drop of water, I figured he might also have been part of a snowflake at one time. I looked it up and, sure enough:
Linked and hydrogen bonded, as cold crystal we form pyramids, waiting in frost etched caves and halls so crystalline. Above and below us are many million tons of Pleistocene glacier.
The outside mass, which is shaped like us because it is us, moves. Ponderous, old-cold, crushing the land, ice-blue in its own shade. Back and forth, grinding.
Comes the Sun! our mandator! Heating up, our group moves faster; those on top swinging into the sky. How they dart away up yonder. To my wonder so do I, lifting off the sea green darkness—separate, invisible. I, Mark Twain, am just one water molecule, floating up the blue heavens.
Higher, farther… then the sudden chill. I meet the others swimming, huddling, clinging to some sudden particle, a bit of dust perhaps. Grabbing hands and forming snowflakes we join and sink among our fellows.
Humankind has also learned to make snow from Mark Twain’s principles. Where we live here in Maine they are making it all winter long in these mountains. One would think this superfluous since on average we live in the highest snowfall area of the northeastern United States. Here’s how they do it: First you need water, next the right temperature, followed by the right equipment ready to pressurize air and force this minute symmetrical making. There are at least 50 people in the area getting seasonal jobs out of this special making, running 300 guns at 10° with a helpful breeze. These conditions are optimal.
Probably every last one of these workers loves to ski on these trails here at Sunday River. Sunday? Appropriately, we thank God for snow. Come, get in our eyes.
The US weather pattern and English! snowflake images are from Wikipedia, as are the first two quotations. The second quote is from Fantastic Travelogue: Mark Twain and CS Lewis Talk Things over in The Hereafter.