Christy Call and Ryan Call are sister and brother. Excerpts from their ongoing field guide to North American weather have been published by mlpress, Lamination Colony, sleepingfish, Everyday Genius, NANO Fiction, LIT, and Necessary Fiction. They live in Chattanooga and Houston respectively, but were born in Utah.

Snowstorm As Nostalgic Accumulation

posted Nov 30, 2010

A snowstorm consists of an almost infinite number of memories crystallized in the below-freezing environment of the upper atmosphere where an abundance of moisture is present. At the core of every ice crystal is a nucleus of familial history, whether shared or individual, upon which moisture condenses and freezes into a cold, hard, impenetrable shell. In the supercooled interior of the cloud, liquid water droplets and these ice crystal shells cannot coexist separately for long periods of time, as the attraction of the nucleus is too great. The ice crystals rob the liquid droplets of their moisture, thereby growing continuously and rapidly; even the most repressed memory particles eventually accumulate into sizable packets of ice. Some of these ice crystals stick to each other to create a collection in the form of a snowflake. Simple snowflakes can be seen in a variety of beautiful forms, the most common of which is hexagonal. Typically, the pleasanter the memory, the more beautiful its crystalline form. The first snowfall of the year, which initiates the season of memory-sharing, is generally made up of perfect snowflakes that rest just so on a little girl's long hair or right at the end of a puppy's dark nose. These are the snowfalls that mothers put in scrap books and discuss with one another in their knitting classes. Unfortunately, the symmetrical shapes often reproduced in photomicrographs of snowflakes are not usually found in most actual snowflakes, perhaps due to the memory's being either less pleasant or fractured in some way during its journey to the earth. Most of the snowflakes in a typical snowstorm consist of broken fragments and clusters of adhering ice crystals, which certainly creates confusion in the recipient family member beneath the snowstorm.

Preconditions for a Snowfall

In order to sustain a snowfall, there must be a sufficient number of memory particles present and a constant inflow of moisture to feed the growing ice crystals. These memory particles enter the atmosphere by the nostalgic actions of a family member. For example, a mother sitting alone in her son's bedroom and sorting through his clothing can eject numerous memory particles into the atmosphere. Once in the atmosphere, these particles travel across the continent via airstreams. An airstream, in which a variety of memories are present, may pick up moisture as it passes over a relatively warm water source, a sweating father, a bleeding child, a wife giving birth, a drunken daughter walking nightly through the streets of Chicago, weeping. If the moisture is subsequently lifted to higher, cooler regions of the atmosphere, precipitation may occur, covering the area of the family member with the appropriate snow, thus recalling in her some fond memory of long ago: the mother and daughter once singing in the car, the shadowplay of tree branches flashing by overhead as they traveled to school. The daughter continues to weep, but the space between her sobs relaxes and their tenor grows softer, almost musical. She heads home in the snow, convicted by cold weather.

Effects of Ice Crystals

A single, minute ice crystal seems incapable of being the source of immeasurable beauty, an element of force, or a weapon of destruction, for its microscopic size makes its inherent memory all but incomprehensible; however, when combined with countless others, it can have a profound affect on many aspects of human life. Floating in the upper atmosphere, ice crystals cause beautiful halos, coronas, and other fascinating optical phenomena surrounding the sun and moon; these effects are often simple, pleasant reminders that we ought to call our parents, send them a letter, or otherwise make some offering to their place in our lives. In the upper portions of cumulonimbus clouds, ice crystals contribute to the creation of electrical charges that can result in spectacular lightning and booming thunder, both reminders that we ought to fear and respect our parents even as we love them. Although falling ice crystals often melt in their descent, thus creating rain, conditions do arise in which they remain frozen and adhere to each other on the ground, resulting in heavy accumulations that transform landscapes into the winter wonderlands of our childhoods. These wonderlands recall family ski trips, shoveling driveways with our father, sitting inside before a crackling fire, that first snowfall when the son found a rose blooming by the fence—the Christmas rose we came to call it—a single red rose on a cold rose bush. He cut it and took it inside to the mother, who then finds it almost twenty years later, browning slightly, but otherwise intact. She hopes to one day share this rose with her grandchildren—maybe they will pick out a vase for the rose, as her children once did. Or maybe not, for despite their beauty, these accumulations of memory also disrupt transportation and normal economic life, can lead to bouts of seasonal depression, and often remind us of our inability to return to those better days.