Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Poetry Of Snow

Photo by Kathleen Tyler Conklin

Snow is beautiful, exciting, mysterious and sometimes treacherous. So is curiosity.

One man, Wilson Bentley (1865-1931) saw the beauty of snow, was fascinated by it and became curious about it.  As a young man, he was drawn to the natural world around him on his farm in Vermont.  He loved studying butterflies, leaves, raindrops, spider webs and snowflakes. Especially snowflakes,

Bentley devised a way to connect a microscope and a camera in order to photograph snowflakes. He stood for hours in the Vermont cold winter catching falling flakes and pushing them delicately with a feather onto the microscopic lens.

He photographed 5000 snow crystals this way over the course of his lifetime. Magically, every snowflake that he photographed was unique. He published photos of 2300 of these images in his book Snow Crystals and the Smithsonian Archives houses 500 of his photographs.

Ironically, he died from pneumonia after walking through a blizzard.

I read this story recently in The Washington Post and it reminded me how a curious mind responds to beauty. The intersection of science and art. Bentley’s curious mind appreciated and memorialized the unique beauty of the snowflake. His story inspired me to write this poem. 


                                  Humans in some ways
                                  so alike
                                  we share our similarities
                                  hide our dissonances,
                                  alike at first glance
                                  and last chance.

                                  Like falling snow
                                  when examined deeply beneath
                                  our surface sameness---
                                  so different,
                                  as Bentley found
                                  when he captured each snowflake,
                                  memorized its uniqueness
                                  with his camera.

                                  Each of us perfectly unique
                                  as those white hexagons,
                                  when we allow
                                  our truth to fall up
                                  from our

                                  lovely, lonely center.


  1. Dear Claire,
    You always touch my heart with your stories and poetry.

  2. So wonderful to hear...thank you Cynthia