I've been pondering snow.
No, not because I have to shovel it or push it off my driveway, but because someone posted a picture a single snowflake online.
We've all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Now, there are scientists who will debate that point, citing that in all the history of the universe, the law of very large numbers states that two identical snowflakes could very well exist. Other scientists point out that there are over 100 identifiable features in snowflakes, which gives us 10 to the 158th (that's a 1 followed by 158 zeroes) possible combinations, which is twice the number of atoms in the universe, meaning it is far more likely that no two absolutely identical snowflakes ever existed.
And, almost everyone knows that snowflakes form as a result of water vapor condensing on a particle of dust high up in the clouds.
But what I did not know was that different snowflakes form at different temperatures and different humidity levels, and the classic snowflake is actually the result of that snowflake being subjected to different conditions as it rises and falls through the clouds.
So, the history of the snowflake can be told by the form it takes. It's origin is at the center and the most recent event at the edges.
All snowflakes start out as six-sided plates due to the trinitarian nature of the water molecule. Sometimes, they form hexagonal tubes, columns, needles, or even solid prisms.
But our "classic" snowflake, as it moves through different temperature and humidity conditions within the cloud, forms arms or "dendrites" off the points of each of those six sides.
Under the right conditions, incredible intricacies develop as the water molecules attach to the dendritic arms and the amazing crystalline structure forms.
Ribs, ridges, grooves, and spikes form as well as features that look amazingly like darts, rockets, duck feet, and even tiny anchors.
All of this takes place in less than twenty minutes and the resulting forms can be breathtakingly beautiful.
But we can only see them if we look for them. Of the billions of snowflakes that fall to earth each year, no one ever looks at the vast majority of them.
This incredible, astounding, even miraculous beauty is all around us and almost no one notices.
In fact, many of us (including me) will complain about having to move that snow away from places we would prefer it didn't accumulate.
And, we will go to great trouble and expense to move that snow without ever once thinking that every one of those microscopic cathedrals of glory bear the very fingerprint of God.
If we stop and think of the beauty God put into something He designed to fall to earth only to be broken by the wind, trampled under foot, and eventually to melt away, what kind of beauty will we find when arrive in the place He has prepared in advance for us to live forever with Him?
He spreads the snow like wool
and scatters the frost like ashes.
He hurls down his hail like pebbles.
Who can withstand his icy blast?
He sends his word and melts them;
he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow.
(Psalm 147: 16-18)