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Snowy Thoughts

With the first of the season’s snow appearing on Lake County’s mountains in November, I had the pleasure of running errands that took me across the county. South Lake County’s peaks, including Mt. Saint Helena, Schoolhouse Peak, and Cobb Mountain, were aglow with white good cheer. Through my camera’s viewfinder, I zoomed in on the velvety white cloak to spy on some superb beauty. Then, the coniferous forest’s intricacies appeared in my viewfinder, revealing fluffy white branches galore. From Lakeport, Cow Mountain and the ridge of Snow Mountain were also splendorous in their glowing white beauty.

I imagined tromping along a trail up there, then viewing the minutiae of the woodlands through a macro lens. Since snowflakes are initiated with a nucleus, I envisioned a seed of ice enforcing order on the nearby molecules. For crystallization into a snowflake to occur, the molecules need to line up into rows and other features, accreting into hexagonal forms. Their shape is determined through ambient moisture and temperature. It is said that since no two snowflakes are alike, that snowflakes are products of chaos.

Since snow in Lake County is not viewed very often, it can bring out the child in you, eyes wide with wonder. It also brings to mind Snow Days, when schools release students due to inclement weather. As an educator for 24 years, I was witness to the excitement of early release for both students and teachers when visions of snowmen and hot cocoa danced in our heads!

A walk in the snowy woods can bring out your inner science geek, as well. In the lexicon of science, the interesting word, chionophiles comes to mind. Wikipedia says “Chionophiles include organisms such as plants, animals and fungi, etc. that can thrive in winter conditions. The word comes from the Greek word, chion meaning “snow”, and -phile “lover.” Wiki goes on to state that “These animals have specialized adaptations that help them survive the harshest winters.” Since the article discusses chionophiles in Arctic and Antarctic conditions, with Arctic hares Arctic ground squirrels, snow geese and other animals’ ability to survive harsh winters by various means of hibernation, migration or other adaptations, I understand that we probably don’t have true chionophiles up in them thar hills, but they are, never-the-less, fascinating creatures.

Going back to the school days theme, I also thrill at the memories of my years as a volunteer for NASA in their Solar System Ambassador program and having the privilege of attending lectures at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View presented by super stars of science such as NASA Astrobiologist Dr. Chris McKay and others. McKay was interviewed by my students via email when we learned about lifeforms he was studying in the cold, dry Ross Desert of Antarctica. McKay and other scientists found a special relevance to early evolution of life studies there, and considered that the microbial lifeforms, technically known as oligotrophs, found in lakes in Antarctica could be considered analogues to possible life on Mars.

Here’s to the essence of the landscape’s beauty, including the disorder underlying a seemingly simple act of the formation of a snowflake and the tranquil beauty that follows.

Kathleen Scavone

Kathleen Scavone, MA., is a retired educator who has resided in beautiful Lake County for over 45 years. She freelances fiction, poetry, nature writing, curriculum ideas, and local history. She writes for The Press Democrat, Napa Valley Register, News From Native California, Green Prints, etc. She has published three books, a play and a poetry chapbook. The second edition of her locally set historical novella, People of the Water- a novella of the events leading to the Bloody Island Massacre of 1850 is available in local museums and stores, as well as on Amazon.com and IngramSpark in both paperback and e-book formats. She has written Anderson Marsh State Historic Park- A Walking History, Prehistory, Flora and Fauna tour of a California State Park, and Native Americans of Lake County. Kathleen is a photographer and potter. Her other interests include hiking, assisting on archaeology digs, travel, gardening and reading.

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