For centuries, scientists, philosophers and astronomers have pondered the nature of snow, its composition, shape, form and beauty. The seventeenth-century astronomer Johannes Kepler speculated on the 'six corneredness' of snow. The mathematician and philosopher René Descartes published the first scientifically accurate drawings of snowflakes at around the same time. And in 1665 Robert Hooke examined snow under a microscope, before comparing the beauty of snowflakes with other forms of holiness. There is no questioning the symmetry and beauty of snowflakes when seen at this microscopic scale. Yet, who would imagine that such a tiny thing could cause such transformative landscape change over millennia, and such dramatic shifts in the way society perceives and makes use of their familiar landscape? Even where snow settles only briefly, the landscape is transformed, not to mention the economic impact snowfall has on society. There is innocence in snowfall; it can calm one's mood and lift the spirit. It provides a new view of familiar landscapes, creating opportunities to subvert rules and protocols of being in the landscape. Snow changes things, and this short essay – part personal sentiment, part theoretical overview, part phenomenology, and part literary and fine art critique – begins to explore how and why this might be.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: November 1, 2004
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