Last night I saw snow, enough to remind me of years spent in more northern lands. It fell so hard and fast that my photos showed white streaks crossing the field of vision. The grassy yard and nearby trees, usually alight with cardinals, chickadees, titmice and wrens were strangely silent the next morning.
A colleague said she had salted her driveway before the snowstorm, but it didn’t work. My neighborhood roads got no treatment whatsoever, and no vehicles left all day.
Salt is great for removing ice, but not so good for eight inches of snow. Although I am hopeful of the roads being cleared so I can get out with my vehicle, I love to see the snow on the ground. Unbidden, the thought comes that I am an old man with a bad heart and this could be the last time I see the snow. It’s not likely, but possible.
Salt lowers the melting point of ice, gets it off the roadways, and it allows tires to get traction, especially when it is mixed with light gravel. When I leave my apartment overlooking the Tennessee River valley below, I hope for no ice on the roadway. I hope for days when salt is unnecessary.
Forty degree weather will melt snow fast, but eight inches is a lot of snow. Even with a layer of salt beneath it, there will be plenty left over for night time temperatures to refreeze. I will walk to work on Friday morning.
In his magnificent book, The Forest Unseen, David George Haskell recorded his observations of a square meter of virgin forest, never cut. It was on the property of the University of the South. He observed this square meter over the course of a year, and the winter portions include stories of snow, ice, cold temperatures, and the sometimes surprisingly warm days of winter months. He called the location “the Mandala”
Most of Haskell’s observations were biological, but he made forays into the realm of physical sciences. He examined ice and snow, and commented on the six sided snowflake. Haskell described how Johannes Kepler, discover of night sky wonders, took a break from astronomy and examined snowflakes. Kepler rejected the theory of the atom, regaining popularity in his day. He examined the pomegranate and the wax cells in bee hives, commented on the repeating six sided structure in each.
Haskell says that Kepler might have had more luck had he accepted the existence of atoms. I am not so certain that this would have led to the discovery of the six-sided ring formed by six water molecules. Kepler would also have to have known about the weak bond between the hydrogen atoms of one molecule and the oxygen atom of an adjoining molecule, credited with the hexagonal structure.
Some purveyors of health food have recently discovered this fact about water, and begun marketing “hexagonal water.” Caveat Emptor, all water is hexagonal or not, depending on temperature. Any consumer can have hexagonal water in quantities equal to the capacity of their ice maker. Lest some defender of the faith take this as an attack on health foods generally, let me state, for the record, it is not. Some health food claims are certainly legitimate, but every form of business has practitioners both honest and otherwise. Some are mere hucksters, P.T. Barnums, looking for those proverbial suckers, one of which is born every minute.
The hexagonal ring structure makes ice expand as it freezes and cools. This is why ice floats on top of the water. I have seen fish trapped in ice and apparently frozen solid. When the ice thaws they may revive and skid about on their fins on top of the ice until they find a hole and return to the pond from whence they came. The sight of fish swimming in puddles atop the ice astonished me.
On this particular day though, I observed the clouds at sunset, saw a pink wash from a setting sun. Of course, the sunset itself is never visible here on the east side of the mountain. Each time I came inside to work on a project, I looked out the window and was back outside. I did not want to miss one minute of the fading pink light on snow.