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Happy new year, 11 inches deep

Jan 9, 2014 - By Betty Starks Case

Didn't we always know Wyoming weather was capricious, tricky, and undependable? Then came Friday, Jan. 3, 2014.

I climbed out of bed that morning and pulled open the drapes as I always do, wondering how my parents managed to imbue their children with a sense of awe about this whole rising thing.

The morning, by anyone's standards, was glorious. Blue skies welcomed the sunrise with puffy, pink-cotton clouds floating in every direction. I hurried to open living room drapes to the west. There, again, puffs of awesome beauty floated the skies.

Grabbing a wrap, I ran outside to see if the northern heavens hidden by our big garage felt the same about this lovely morning.

Sure enough. The entire arc of blue was decorated in lovely shades of rose - one of the prettiest skies I'd ever seen.

By noon, the temperature had reached a comfortable high of 47 degrees.

Was this a perfect winter day, or what?

That evening, my brother and wife, here from Rock Springs, wondered if South Pass roads would be safe for their return trip next day.

"You timed it just right," I assured them. "More snow isn't forecast until tomorrow night."

I opened the door to prove my point.

Snow was falling -- in sheets -- straight down.

Next morning, my mate pulled on heavy boots and went out to shovel snow. He enjoys an outdoor job, so long as he can handle it, and that built-in work ethic always tells him he can.

My part is to hope his judgment is sound while I run from one window to another to see if he's still on his feet.

I went out to measure the snow. My yardstick reported 11 inches in our front yard -- the most snow we'd seen in one storm in years.

While I was lost in visions of my South Dakota childhood where snowbanks took us right over pasture fences on the way to school, our faithful snow angels arrived to clear our long driveway and walks.

Now, the clouds slowly moved away. Temperatures dropped from 47 degrees to below zero.

Thus began Wyoming New Year -- 2014.

But aren't the surprises our reason for living here?

Attuned and tested now, we sank into comfortable chairs near the fireplace to read. My choice, a magazine story on the complexity and simplicity of snow. If you must live with 11 inches of it, you'd just as well learn more about it.

"Whenever snow falls, people look at things and suddenly see them," observes the story's author, Daniel Tammet.

I donned sunglasses for protection against the snow glistening through the tall windows where it had piled on every tree, evergreen or deciduous, every fence and home. The snow delineated shapes, sizes, and other characteristics, making each object out there into a scene of its own.

"With snowfall," Tammet adds, "New worlds appear and disappear, leaving their prints upon our imagination."

Now I began to see a new print myself. Because most of my writing involves people, the wonder grew, as did a similarity between snowflakes and humans.

I considered the scientific fact that although endless numbers of snowflakes fall, with each having a basic similar structure, its "spiraling descent sculpts each in a unique way."

So how might this resemble humans?

We do all begin with a similar sculpture -- head, body, arms, legs, etc. But in analogy of our "spiraling descent" while gathering genes and events that shape us, life sculpts us into a uniqueness that is all our own. We are, in reality, each different from any other.

Like a snowflake.

Does that suggest there's a pattern to all our maker's creations?

While you're considering all this mental exercise, along with perhaps questioning my own, I'll share another, simpler view of how to cope with our weather situation.

A recent newspaper column titled "Planning beyond the cold," by greenhouse owner Tom Heald, urges, "Think spring!" and adds, "Let the daydreaming begin!"

Doesn't that seem a bit premature? And yet -- maybe we should.

In Tom's realm, we might find a warmer form of that "basic similar structure of life."

Like a flower.

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