The Storehouses of Snow

Here in Montana, we have had an amazing Fall. I was joking about how we were going to miss Fall by visiting my family for ten days in September, but we were blessed with good weather almost all the way through October! It was amazing, I love Fall in the land of Aspen trees. I also love waking up in a snow globe, which finally happened this last week. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but there is something so peaceful about snow. I don’t know if it’s how slowly each snowflake falls, like they are in no hurry to be absorbed into the masses below, dragging out their moment of glory and trying to decide where to land. Or maybe it’s the way snow covers the landscape like a heavy quilt, muffling all the chaos that life creates… like when you dunk your head into a lake, and everything goes quiet. It’s not altogether silent, just muffled. Have you ever been on a mountain top, so far from civilization and roads and people that you can’t hear a thing, and you must make a noise just to verify you haven’t lost your sense of hearing? That’s what our valley covered in snow reminds me of. Snow makes you slow down and take time to listen, to look and even to move about, whether by foot or by car. I love snow. And I haven’t even touched on how much brighter it makes the nighttime simply by its ability to reflect light. When paired with a full moon, the night sky becomes a natural nightlight. It’s my favorite.

River and Micah went outside to play in the snow on the first day, trying to sled and build igloos. Only it was that incredibly dry kind of snow. The kind that doesn’t stick together. They didn’t give up though and when Micah came inside, all pink in the cheeks and shivering, he said, “Mom, the snow is so WEIRD this time! It’s like you can see every single snowflake!” And it’s true, I have sat at our huge sliding glass door staring at the snow piled on the deck, admiring the texture and the sparkles. I can’t capture it in a picture for you, but it’s incredible.

It reminds me of a book I’ve been reading recently called Chase the Lion. In one chapter it tells the story of a guy born in 1865 named Wilson Bentley, also known as “Snowflake Man.” Wilson Bentley grew up on a farm in Vermont and developed a fascination for snowflakes as a young boy. He was inspired by Job 38:22 where God inquires of Job, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow?” In the book I’m reading, the author, Mark Batterson, points out that this was one of 51 unanswerable questions that God asked Job and that most people view the questions as rebukes, but they are also invitations that call us to “scientific inquiry.” Job 37:14 says, “Stop and consider God’s wonders,” and that is what Wilson Bentley did. He spent years studying snowflakes and when he realized you could pair a microscope with a camera, through trial and error, he learned how to take micrographic photos of them. Over the course of his life, he documented over 5,000 snowflakes and each of them was completely different than the rest.

“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”

Wilson was known to be gentle and humble. He documented his study of all weather related to water and his photos and records have been referred to for the last 100 years. In his discoveries he revealed how crystals were formed and how each dimension and detail of a crystal could tell you about the kind of storm it came from. He was ahead of all other research in his field, but he didn’t even know it. He continued working the family farm until he died of pneumonia after walking six miles in a snowstorm. I love how Wilson stopped and wondered at God’s creation. He found himself frustrated because he could see so much beauty in the world around him, but try as he might, he couldn’t communicate what he saw to the people around him.

“The price that Bentley had to pay in loneliness is the price that all must pay whose inner vision allows them to see what others can never see.” (www.snowflakebentley.com)

He may not have fit in with the farmers of his small hometown, but he never lost his passion for beauty. And in the end, his hometown newspaper stated, “Wilson Bentley saw something in the snowflakes which other men failed to see, not because they could not see, but because they had not the patience and understanding to look.” Man, that’s good! I hope we can let his story inspire us to have the patience and understanding to stop and consider the wonders of God. I know the beauty we find, will far outweigh the loneliness that might accompany us along the way, and that it will draw us even deeper into a relationship with the One who created it all.

Job 38:22

Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail,

Which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle?

What is the way to the place where the lightening is dispersed,

Or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?

Who cuts the channel for the torrents of rain, and a path for the thunderstorm,

To water a land where no one lives, an uninhabited desert,

to satisfy a desolate wasteland and make it sprout with grass?…

Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone,

When the surface of the deep is frozen?

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