Meditations on A(nother) Snow Day

Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

By: Jeremy Teitelbaum

Right up until I looked out the window Thursday morning, I planned to write a serious follow-up to my last blog about complacency. But it snowed. Again. A lot. And when school gets canceled for yet another snow day, and we haven’t gotten our mail in days because the mailbox is buried, and our dog looks longingly out the window but won’t risk diving into the yard because the snow is over her head, it’s hard to put together a coherent essay on a serious topic.

So here, instead, are some thoughts (and links) on the general topics of winter and snow.

1. The Snow Man by Wallace Stevens. What a strange poem. If this keeps up, I believe we will all have minds of winter. William Carlos Williams’s Blizzard and Winter Trees suit the season. I found Annie Finch’s article The Poetry of Deep Winter a good place to find more poetry about snow and winter.

2. Footprints in the Snow, by Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. I’m always amazed at what you can find on YouTube.

3. The Physics of Snow Crystals, a review article by Kenneth Libbrecht. Not light reading and I won’t claim anything more than a quick skim, but if anyone wants to explain it to me I’m interested. The author writes:

A close look at the formation of an individual snow crystal reveals that this is a remarkably rich and complex event. Although it involves little more than the organization of water molecules into a crystalline lattice, many questions about the growth process remain unanswered.

This link gives more accessible information on the physics of snow crystals.

Added in press: The editor of this web page, Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu, pointed out these beautiful photomicrographs of snow crystals on the Smithsonian Institution’s website.

4. Cold Frosty Morn, a traditional fiddle tune. Among the many performances of this on YouTube, I particularly like this one. I first heard the tune on the album Remembering Merle, with Doc and Merle Watson performing.

5. Scott of the Antarctic. With Italian subtitles. This is really very, very silly.

Here’s what Thoreau had to say about a snow day, from his essay “A Winter Walk”:

… In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends. The imprisoning drifts increase the sense of comfort which the house affords, and in the coldest days we are content to sit over the hearth and see the sky through the chimney top, enjoying the quiet and serene life that may be had in a warm corner by the chimney side … We enjoy now, not an oriental, but a boreal leisure, around warm stoves and fireplaces, and watch the shadow of motes in the sunbeams.

If you have any favorite winter- or snow- related links or references, send them to me. I am, as Thoreau might say, in a boreal mood.

Maybe I’ll say something substantial in my next blog. But it might have to wait until Spring.

Read more posts by Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, on his blog.

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