With a Single Flake of Snow
With a single flake of snow, winter begins.
Like that first faint shadow of twilight, we hardly take notice of it. Our lives begin with a single breath – and end with one final one. Spring begins with a single flower and fades into summer – and we hardly notice. Like our children who grew up right before our eyes, yet we hardly noticed until they left us to seek their own lives.
And all is as it should be.
A single flake of snow brings winter. The autumn leaves, glorious and majestic, catch our attention as we hurry through our lives. But that first flake of snow is the sentry of winter, and yet we pretend it is not. We go on about our lives relying on calendars and watches and all sorts of devices to keep track of seasons and time. Still, winter begins with a single flake of snow, whether the calendar agrees or not does not matter.
Calendars and watches are made by people. Snowflakes are not. Snowflakes have no need to know the time of date. The come and go as they will.
Today, a single flake of snow catches my eye. It is a dull, gloomy, and lifeless autumn afternoon. The air is chilly, but not particularly cold. My eyes follow a single snowflake as it wafts silently and slowly to the ground. My mind drifts back to another time – when the world was a gentler and simpler place.
I’m getting off the school bus. It’s the last day before Christmas vacation. I am nine years old. I am happy and running towards my little house, on a quiet street, in a small village not too far from the south shore of Lake Erie.
It is snowing lightly and watching it fall lights the childish joy inside me. It is a dull, gloomy, autumn afternoon – the light is weak and aching and tired. But to me, a child, it’s a beautiful and perfect winter wonderland, so bright and happy. It cheers me, and in its chill it warms my soul.
Mom greets me as I open the door. She smiles and asks me how school was. It was OK, I think. She’s in the kitchen cooking. Steam rises off a big pot of something. It smells delicious. Everything mom cooked for us always smelled wonderful.
Dad isn’t home from work yet.
The windows of the house are steamy. It is warm and cozy inside. I feel a peace only a child who is loved can feel. Everything is right in my little world: no school for two weeks – no school buses -no homework – no teachers- no classes. And to top it off, it is snowing outside. It’s ten days before Christmas; I can hardly wait.
More times has passed than I care to admit since I was that young boy who came home on that last day of school before Christmas vacation. But I still recall the smiles and laughter as we boarded that school bus. I can hear the happy sounds of that day and the voices of friends saying: “See you next year!” as the bus chugged quickly away. I can see those scenes and hear the voices of children as clearly as if they happened yesterday.
But that was a very long time ago.
The days of our lives which have long since passed, exist only in our memory. That’s teh only place they can survive. But as long as we still think of them, they still exist. Every “today” will be a tiny bit of a “tomorrow” whenever we happen to remember it.
Those who we love, even though they may have long since passed on, still live… as long as we remember them.
The single snowflake melts and disappears into a pile of dry, dead leaves lying in messy piles on the ground. Though the calendar says “October” – for me, winter begins with this first single flake of snow.
Winter begins when it will. Life begins when it will, and death comes when it will. Calendars and watches serve not purpose but to futilely count the minutes, hours, days, months and years of our brief lives.
Time is relative. It plays tricks on you. Those two-week Christmas vacations from school seemed like an eternity when I was a child. A child’s time passes slowly and the years ahead seem misty, foreign and endless; they stretch into forever. Children have entire lifetimes to live. They’ve only taken a few tiny steps on their life’s journey.
The older we get the faster time passes.
The older we get, the less time we have left to live. It does not seem fair. But, no matter what we think or say or do, time passes as it will, without concern for our age – and without regard for our computers, clocks and calendars.
Nature does not care what time it is. In the Grand Design, time has no meaning at all. It doesn’t matter. Time and space are one great and thankfully, unsolvable mystery. And Somehow that’s a comforting thought to me. I can’t know everything which means there’s always new things for me to learn. There will always be new things to discover, no matter how old I may be.
It’s just thee child inside me — still yearning to learn.
Winter starts with a single flake of snow and ends with a tiny crocus working its way up through the cold, frozen soil. Winter begins and ends as it will and spring follows it just as surely as darkness follows daylight.
Autumn starts when that first solitary golden leaf flutters softly down from a tree – whether anyone is there to see it or not. In the Grand Design time is irrelevant. Nature cares nothing about time. Billions of “years” from now all our clocks, watches and calendars will have turned to dust, but a single flake of snow will fall somewhere. Winter will begin somewhere.
Life begins and ends as it will, and we can only watch in wonder as life is given — and with sorrow as life is taken away. Doctors meddle the physicalities of life – extending the quantity, perhaps even the quality of it for a bit longer than perhaps it would have or maybe even, should have lasted. All our “miracle” medical technologies help us borrow a bit more of what we call “time”. Whether we borrow a day, a month, a year or even a decade, it is an insignificant drop of water in the endless ocean of time.
The lifetime of a star is measured in billions of years – and we are lucky to live eighty years. The universe is hundreds of billions of years old – and we strut about proudly, as if our insignificant lives on this earth, in this galaxy, in this universe- have some great importance.
We are all just a speck of light – a infinitely brief and insignificant flicker – that quickly bursts upon the landscape of forever and fades without notice into the fabric of time and space.
We think ourselves and our lives important, but we are insignificant in the magnificence of the universe. But we are as significant and as glorious as even the biggest and brightest of stars. Our lives can be as beautiful as the most exquisite nebula. We have as much right to be here as the grandest spiral galaxy – or that single, spring dandelion — or that first flake of snow.
We all are important. We are all part of the Grand Design.
If we look, we will find that the stars, galaxies and that tiny flake of snow, are all made of the same stuff – by the same Wondrous Hand. Not one is less or greater than the other. Everyone has a right to be here.
Mankind prides itself on its magnificent technology, yet we cannot even answer some of the simplest questions:
Where did the universe come from?
What caused the big bang?
Why are we here?
Why are there trees?
Why must we die?
Why are no two snowflakes alike?
Winter begins with a single snowflake – and ends with the first sprouts of spring. Beginnings and endings. A continuous and glorious cycle. Everything has a beginning. Everything has an end. And that is the essence and the beauty of it all.
There is an intelligent design to the universe and to the order of things. At least I believe there is. Educators don’t agree with this. They think Darwin figured it all out. He may have gotten it right, but no one will never prove it – at least not to me.
Maybe there are some things we’re not supposed to know. Indeed, the mysteries of life give it meaning just as darkness gives meaning to light – and winter gives meaning to summer.
And death gives meaning to life.
Just like that single flake of snow falling silently through the cool autumn air, we all take a single first step. And we all take that one last final step. With all our calendars, computers, watches and clocks and all other manner of devices – we never know when our last step will come.
We never know what time it really is.
We all see our first sunrise. And we will someday see our last sunrise; there was a first day we woke up in the morning, and there will be a last day we’ll wake up in the morning. There was that first time we planted a garden, and there will be a last time we will plant a garden. There was a day in our life when we saw our first snowflake, and there will be a day in our lives that will be the last we see a snowflake. We experienced a first glorious spring day; and we will experience the elegant, soft winds of a first spring day for one final time.
And it’s all okay – that’s how it is supposed to be.
We can take comfort in the Grand Compassion – none of us will never know when we are doing things for the very last time. But, just as surely as we all do things for the first time, we will all do things for the last time as well. Many people find this thought uncomfortable; I find it exhilarating.
Everything is as it was meant to be.
All our calendars, watches and timekeeping devices are nothing but inventions that help us keep track of the moments of our lives. All we can do is take the time we are given and do what we can to leave the world a little better place than we found it.
You can make the world a little better than you found it by writing a poem, writing a song, spending more time with your children or grandchildren and creating good memories that will last through their lifetimes.
You can write your memoirs or special letters to your family. You can spend more time with your friends. You can create something with your own hands and give it to someone you love.
You can take photographs of your favorite places. You can build a fence,plant a garden, grow houseplants, make a video — do anything you are able to do and leave something behind that wasn’t here before you were. And no matter how small a thing you leave behind, as long as it is a good thing, it will make the world a better place that it was before you were here.
Leave something behind for others to remember you. You will always exist as long as you exist in the memories of others. And perhaps someday your children and grandchildren will think of something you taught them – maybe it’s something that will make the world a better place.
Whether its a poem written on a tiny scrap of paper, or teaching a child something to fly a kite, look through a telescope at the planets, or bake and decorate Christmas cookies; you can leave a part of you behind… and that will make the world a better place.
Winter starts with a single flake of snow. Tomorrow begins right now.
Your experiences can be brief and beautiful like that first snowflake – or it can be more subtle and endearing like the first flower of spring, reborn from the dead and frozen soil. Each experience is a chance to learn and each one is what you make it.
Beginnings give meaning to endings; yesterday gives meaning to tomorrow. The rain gives meaning to the sun; dark gives meaning to the light; sorrow gives meaning to joy. Everything begins and everything ends and we don’t have to understand it to know that everything is just as it must be.
We are all just as much a part of this beautiful universe as a single flake of snow, the brightest star, the most distant nebula or the most splendid autumn day. We and the stars share a commonality. Carl Sagan once said we are all star stuff.
We all breathe the same air and we all share the same Earth. We have much more in common with each other than we have differences that separate us. We all are born and we all die.
With a single flake of snow, winter begins. The future begins and the past ends with this moment. All is as it is supposed to be, whether we think it is or not.