The Wonder of Snow

My children love snow. Are fascinated by snow, as only California children could be. And every winter we read together the amazing story of Snowflake Bentley. 

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I love this book! I love how Bentley never lost his childlike sense of wonder. I love how patiently he pursued his passion. I love how his parents spent their savings on a special camera that allowed their child to photograph snowflakes. I love how Bentley persisted despite the derision of neighbors. I love that he thought of his photographs as his “gift to the world.”

When I taught elementary school in Los Angeles, I used to read Snowflake Bentley aloud to my students. I remember that the first time I read-aloud this book I was struck by the fact that the snowflake designs we see everywhere on textiles and illustrations and wrapping paper all can be traced back to a boy with a microscope on a Vermont farm – that we know about the six-sided symmetrical beauty of snowflakes, these masterpieces of natural design, from Snowflake Bentley

Make sure when you read this book you also get yourself a copy of Bentley’s original photographs (available cheaply from Dover) to admire his gift to the world for yourself. They are so, so lovely.

As my kids and I have been reading about snow and Snowflake Bentley and lots of winter nature poetry this month, I have been thinking about how so much of the wonder and beauty of nature is intertwined with its fleetingness. And our inability to control it.

Taking advantage of unexpected snowfall while visiting cousins to build a snow man. In the dark.

You cannot will it to snow or make the snowfall stay. You cannot force the songbird to sing his song again. That delicious combination of warm sun and cold wind on your face – you cannot call it back. You cannot make the horizontal light from the setting sun dipping beneath the clouds illuminate the leaves on the trees just so. You can only be there to pay attention when it happens. So much amazing art and writing is an effort to capture these transient moments of beauty and share them with others. But the art is not the moment. It is only the memory of the moment. And a reminder to watch for those moments.

If I learn one lesson well from nature I want it to be this one: Be present. Be open to wonder. And when beauty and wonder show up in your life, pay attention and enjoy it.

My Favorite (mostly non-fiction) Picture Books about Snow

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