Today I met 7-year-old Naomi, the daughter of My Music Man’s old high school buddy. She was delightful and quickly brought out my inner little girl. As we chatted about the snow on the ground here in Iowa, I told her that I very much wanted to create a snowman and she volunteered to be my “partner-in-crime.” Last night, while we were sleeping, a steady snow fell and over 4 inches accumulated overnight. I am told this is only an average. Some places got more, some less. I am sure we got more. The snow was beautiful, very fluffy, and piled up everywhere. There was so much snow, the snowplows were working around the clock. I can’t imagine how tired they must be of this cold powder called “snow.” For the last 24 hours I have seen more snowplows, John Deere tractors with attachments, and little “mini plows” than I’ve seen regular cars.
And I've learned something I never knew - not all snow is created equal. Snow has certain properties, depending on the outside temperature. This is a noteworthy fact because the temperature never got above 20 degrees today. It was so cold that the snow did not stick together at all. It was like holding very cold talcum powder. Try to make a cohesive ball out of talcum powder. It simply doesn’t work. This flies in the face of my old believes about snow. I used to think that snow was snow. Can’t you always make a snowball with snow?
I have heard that in the Inuit culture, they have many different words for what we simply call “snow.” After today, this makes sense.
My ultimate objective was to make my first snowman in over 2 decades. I innocently thought that with all the snow that had fallen overnight, there would be plenty…and there was! I just couldn’t make it stick together enough to make a simple small snowball! I quickly learned that I had to take off my (warm) gloves and hold the snowball in my warm-ish hands and blow to bring it up to a temperature that would cause it to stick together. This only worked for a short time because after a couple of small snowballs for the body of the snowman, my hands were frozen. I didn’t know how badly they were frozen until I went inside to use the bathroom. Suddenly, I felt a great deal of pain in my fingers and a throbbing warmth that felt like my bones had been set on fire.
The final result was a beautiful little “mini” snowman that Naomi named “Frosty.” We searched the land to find the important accessories that all snow people must have -- the buttons, the arms, the eyes, the pipe, the nose (we imported a raisin for this), and, of course, the hat. He started out bald and we decided that he had to have a hat, or hair, however the observer wanted to interpret our art piece. The search for these snow-fashion-accessories was an adventure all by itself. We knew that we would have to be realistic about the size of our precious snowman. He would have to be small or we would get frostbite.
“Frosty” was about 8 inches tall, and he played hockey. We found him a wonderful hockey stick and a hockey puck that looked more like a soccer ball (that is if you were to calculate the scale of our new friend). He had precious red berry buttons, eyes made from the pods, which created an “eyelash-y” look. His hat was made of an evergreen pine bush and Naomi insisted on finishing our creation with a dusting of snow over his head.
The snow feels and looks like the sand at Dillon beach a couple of miles from my house, and it behaves about the same way. I couldn’t make a “sand ball” with the sand there, but I could try to make a sand castle and that is the very logic that I used to make “Frosty.” Basically, adding water (in this case, damp heat) you would make the crystals stick together.
While I tediously worked on the little guy, Naomi made snow angels in the front yard. Given the amount of snow and the powdery consistency, it was far easier to make a snow angel than it was to make our snowman. She was obviously a veteran.
As the afternoon peaked, the sun sparkled on the snowy ground. with in weather that is too cold to even contemplate, there was no chance of melting and I knew that “Frosty” would guard their house for a while, given the promised weather forecast. By tonight, it would dip down to some number with a negative in front of it and the temps forecasted in the coming weekend didn’t bode much better.
To say that I’m glad to be heading home on Monday would be a given. Yet, this adventure is full of fertile education. I have learned a lot about snow, things I never knew, and things I thought I did know have been up-ended. I’ll never think of Iowa in the same way, heck, I’ll never think of snow in the same way. It makes me want to learn all those Inuit words that describe all the many types of snow that exist and find out how to make a snowman out of each and every kind.
But, most of all, I learned that I never want to waste a good snow. I'll never pass up the opportunity to make a snowman with a sweet little angel named Naomi, even if it means I get frostbite.