Wednesday, October 01, 2014

`A Perfect Flake of Miraculous Snow'

I knew the electrical engineer was from China, and once watched as he had a long video conversation (of which I understood not a word) with his father and wife who still live there, but his private life was otherwise unknown to me. So when we arrived in the break room at the same time, both seeking coffee and neither of us in a hurry, we chatted semi-casually. After family, we moved on to the other universal solvent of non-intimate conversation – the weather. He wore a sweater over his t-shirt and observed it was a chilly morning. We agreed such things are relative, as the daytime temperature still lingers in the eighties in Houston. I asked about the seasons in his region of China. (It occurred to me that I have almost no sense of the natural world in that country.) “Four of them,” he said, “not like Houston where it’s one season all year.” As a Northerner nostalgic for the seasonal cycle, I warmed to the topic. We agreed that mono-seasonal weather can be disappointing and lacks drama. “How I miss the snow and the patterns it forms,” he said. “And walking in it at night.” I never expected such a reverie from a man in digital-signal processing, and remembered night walks in upstate New York in the deep blue snow. Back in my office I sent the professor the link to a poem I had discovered one day before our little talk – William Baer’s  “Snowflake” (Borges and Other Sonnets, 2003), especially these lines: 

“Timing’s everything. The vapor rises
high in the sky, tossing to and fro,
then freezes, suddenly, and crystalizes
into a perfect flake of miraculous snow.”

No comments: