By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE
It was February 7th, the day stars tumbled from the sky and graced those who would take notice. A low pressure system was sweeping from the Ohio Valley to southern New England, washing the sky in dusky gray hues. Hesitant flurries were ushering in bands of snow, heralding yet another blizzard. But before Winter Storm Marcus could dump its heavy swath of snow across Connecticut, an extraordinary discovery took place. Sheer crystalline gems alighted on coats, hats, gloves, hair, — whatever concluded their airy descent; ephemeral favors bestowed on the mindful and fortunate few.
That was the day my son boarded a plane at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. We were all thanking our lucky stars that his flight took off before the next in the long chain of snowstorms hit the Northeast. My son might have missed his flight if he had paused any longer for the magical moments of star-shaped snowflakes sprinkling all about him. He had just time enough to witness the “starflakes” and snap a photo before they disappeared.
“What about the notion that no two snowflakes are identical? Falling stars?” My son and I considered the curious phenomenon while viewing his star-studded photo; each of us on opposite ends of the North-South compass.
As it turned out, there were many “starflake” sightings in the Northeast during the recent winter storms. The Weather Channel reported: “As Winter Storm Juno bears down on the East Coast, reports are surfacing of star-shaped snowflakes. At around 2 p.m. ET, weather.com spotted the unique snowflakes in midtown Manhattan. While it looks like magic, there is a scientific explanation behind the phenomenon. ‘If snowflakes stay separated from each other…and if you look closely enough, you can sometimes see the structure of snowflakes with your naked eye,’ weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce says. ‘There are many different types of crystal patterns and these star-shaped snowflakes are just one example. The dendrite, a star-shape with varying patterns, is the most common shape of a snowflake.’”
Kathrine Brooks of The Huffington Post (at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/star-shaped-snowflakes-_n_6555614.html ) reported:
“The complex ice crystals are part of a natural art-making process that you might have learned about in your grade school science class. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a snowflake begins to form when exceedingly cold water droplets freeze onto certain particles in the sky, like pollen or dust. The meeting of water and particle creates an ice crystal, and as that crystal falls to the ground, water vapor freezes onto it to produce new crystals –essentially, the six points of the snowflake that make that stunning star shape…Winter Storm Juno descended upon the East Coast this week, bringing with it a mélange of wind gusts, icy temperatures and admirably geometric snowflake masterpieces…Residents of cities like Manhattan reported seeing a mix of star-shaped flakes falling upon them, posting impressive shots of the unique configurations across the Internet…”
Brooks invited readers to get a close-up view of snowflakes by macrophotographer Alexey Kljatov at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/alexey-kljatov_n_4373888.html.
So, why all this snowflake talk on The Writers’ Loop? What does it have to do with reading and writing? But then, what isn’t reading or writing?
For reading: Throughout and at the end of this post you’ll find several links for more information about star snowflakes, as well as some fun and interesting weather-related information links for adults and children.
For writing: I don’t think we need to be world travelers, great history buffs, or geniuses in order to write creatively. Of course that would help. We take the mundane, ordinary, everyday happenings and look at them from all sides. Consider the ideas that can come from people watching, overhearing bits of conversations, news articles, obituaries, art, music, friends, nature, children, history, travel, sporting events, or even politics (oh dear). Find some facet that appeals, begs for commentary, or deserves elaboration, and jot down those thoughts. As a case in (six-) point, star-shaped snowflakes inspire me. I envision magical, miniature glistening stars streaming from the clouds or trailing a meteorite as it races across the universe…
Author Neil Gaiman says, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” You can check out his response to “Where do you get your ideas?” at: http://www.neilgaiman.com/p/Cool_Stuff/Essays/Essays_By_Neil/Where_do_you_get_your_ideas%3F
I’d like to add advice to Gaiman’s comment. When you notice that you’re getting ideas, jot them down on the nearest piece of paper before you forget them.
For more information:
- National Weather Service, Online School for Weather: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/matrix.htm
- For 35 different types of snowflakes check out: www.snowcrystals.com.
- Terms used by meteorologists, forecasters, weather observers, and in weather forecasts:
- National Geographic, Weather 101: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/101-videos/weather-101-sci
For children (Not just for kids, I’ve learned a lot from these sites.):
- Weather Wiz Kids® by meteorologist Crystal Wicker: http://www.weatherwizkids.com/index.htm
- Science Kids: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/weather.html
- NASA, Climate Kids: http://climatekids.nasa.gov/menu/weather-and-climate/
- To read about Tycho’s Supernova, visit: