In traditional form, February brought snow to my area. The white flakes mixed with rain off and on throughout the first day of the month. Watching the precipitation fall, I noticed changes in the shape and structure of the snow. The first wet snow flakes that fell with the rain were large with wide, loose, grayish crystal structures that melted upon hitting the ground. Later in the day, the temperature dropped and the flakes that fell were more like tiny pellet balls with very dense, bright white crystal cores that bounced when coming in contact with the ground.
States of Matter
Seeing these different flakes reminded me of science lessons years ago. I remember reading about solids, liquids, and gases, otherwise known as states of matter, and how water is unique in that it can be found in all three states. The molecules in water react to changes in temperature. The reaction of the molecules in turn changes the shape, form, and color of the molecules.
As temperatures rise, water changes from a solid to a liquid. We see this happen when snow or ice melts. At even higher temperatures, the liquid changes to a gas, or a vapor. We see this when we boil water and the resulting steam evaporates as it rises.
Like water molecules, we also change with our surrounding conditions. Though we don’t change our state of matter, we do change our states of mind and overall well-being. Bright sun may make us feel happier and energetic, but dark clouds may result in sadness and loss of enthusiasm. Warmer temperatures draw us outdoors to enjoy running, biking, walking, and other activities. Colder temperatures often compel us to retreat inside to read, knit, or cook.
We all react differently to what we see, hear, taste, feel, and experience. Our reactions allow us to learn and grow in wisdom and perspective. We may not realize the changes to our mind and body as we go along through each day, for they may be small and slow to surface. However, if we stop and think about certain aspects of life over the course of a year’s time, we notice the change a bit more readily.
In some ways, God is also like the water molecules, appearing in our lives in different ways. Sometimes, we notice His presence physically in a sunrise, sunset, or rainbow. Other times, He may appear more transparent in our thoughts and hearts through scripture or meditation. Still other times, we can’t see Him, yet we sense His presence, like when a loved one passes away or someone who was very sick recovers in ways that can’t be explained.
We’re All Flakes
The variety of shapes, forms, and colors of the snowflakes also reminded me of a conversation with a friend about how each person is different, yet similar. “We’re all flakes,” my friend explained, “but when you put us all together, we all have problems, faults, good things, and bad things in our lives.”
Recalling this conversation made me realize that relationships are like snowflakes. Each relationship we have is unique in its own way. This uniqueness allows us to fully experience life, for without the variety, we may not recognize good from bad, happiness from sorrow, or joy from grief.
Some relationships are more solid, providing us with encouragement, strength, and courage to continue onward. Other relationships are more fluid, moving us along, yet not providing much substance to grasp. Still other relationships are more vaporous or spiritual, and can’t be seen, as with a loved one who has passed away or with God.
As I navigated along my running route in the snow and rain, I had to be careful not to lose my footing or my balance. Many years ago, I learned the art and science of running in the snow. It is artistic in that you have to be creative with your movement to keep from falling. It is scientific, for there are many laws of physics, chemistry, and even biology at work as you move along.
Though most of the snow melted upon hitting the ground, there were areas where the flakes had stuck together. Seeing this reminded me of aspects in life that are always present (though we may not see them). These aspects may be physical like light, liquid like water, or gaseous like faith. Combined together, these aspects make life better by providing nourishment for the mind, body, and soul.
As I ran, I watched the snow clouds in the distance changing color, shape, and size. I recalled from science classes that clouds are made up of solid, liquid, and gaseous particles. These particles are very small and my not be seen individually with the naked eye, but when combined can be seen in cloud formations. Changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure change the particles’ makeup, which in turn changes the clouds’ physical appearance.
Like the clouds, we are made up of different particles of matter. The food we eat provides nourishment for these particles, allowing us to grow and change over time. The information we read and hear feeds our minds and souls, changing our perspective and beliefs as we process and dissect the information into areas of fact and fiction.
States of Being
Returning from a bike ride after the snow had stopped falling, I saw deer grazing in the field. Though it was dusk, their bodies were visible because of the snow on the ground. The sight sent a peaceful message to my mind and heart. It also reminded me of how often I seek the solace of nature to recharge and fuel my mind, body, and soul with energy both seen and unseen.
Like the snow flakes, nature comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Though nature as a whole does not have a crystalline structure, it is made up of an intricate weave of animals, plants, and other life forms. Observing this intricate weave has the power to enlighten the mind, opening up and endless book of knowledge one can return to at any time, free of charge, with no strings attached.
Nature also has many different relationships that in turn create more nature. For example, sun and rain combine to feed the seeds that turn into grass that feeds the animals. These relationships exist through different states of matter that offer different states of meaning that in turn have the potential to create different states of being depending upon one’s perspective.
May we all see the value in the different states of matter and in our relationships with others. May the differences we see and experience allow us to better understand the world around us as we make our way upon the journey below the heavens.
Below the Heavens
Snowflakes in the sky, falling to the ground
In varying shades of white without a sound,
Floating on the current of the breeze,
Existing then going out of sight in time’s sea
In the cycle of life spinning around
Below the heavens high above the ground.
Crystal structures with intricate lines
That grow then rupture in time
Catching the eye of the soul
Watching the skies unfold
To unveil another day made new
By God’s grace and painted hues
In the river of time moving on
Below the heavens wide phenomenon.
In powdery white and watery blue
The flakes find their way through
The states of matter in due time
With artistic grace one only can find
In nature’s beautiful being
That gives fuller meaning
To the shores of life walked upon
Below the heavens in the light of another dawn.
-Lisa A. Wisniewski
Resources and Related Links
Cloud particles – http://www.universetoday.com/73198/what-are-clouds-made-of/
States of matter – http://www.livescience.com/46506-states-of-matter.html
Uniqueness of snowflakes – http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/the-science-of-snowflakes/
Water and states of matter – http://www.hometrainingtools.com/a/states-of-matter