Kirk Klasson

Why Snow Is White

Why Snow is White

A Fable

By Kirk M. Klasson


Long ago, before the days of calendars and clocks, before pyramids loomed on Egypt’s plain and flowers bloomed in Babylon, there was a time when seasons did not change, when all the months behaved the same and when, by chance snow came, it did not look the way it does today.

Back then it fell in different hues. On mornings snow was soft and blue, as peaceful as an empty sky, by day it raged as green as angry seas and at night it fell as gray as ash from old volcanoes.

And those of Man who witnessed this have long since now been gone. But through the years there came the news of when snow’s colors changed. Of when it wasn’t green or blue.

And while a few might still believe that long ago snow changed, most of us have just assumed that snow has always been the same, as light as down and cold as ice and white as stars on moonless nights peering from a dark beyond.

In those earliest of days Man was just a stranger in a place where Earth and Sky had long since dwelled, a spirit living in between the soil and the air, his feet forever touching one and his head within the other.

And it wasn’t long before then that the world was made of just these two enormous spheres, the Sky that moved above, chaotic and serene, playful and free, and the Earth that moved below, solemn and certain, steadfast and pleased.

And while these old acquaintances cared little for each other and fared as well together as they would apart, such was not the case for Man. For only where they touched did life endure. And Man soon came to prosper in the midst of their indifference.

As time passed, Man toiled in the place between the Earth and Sky, and by Earth’s blessing came to know the way the world behaved.

In Earth’s soil he put his hands and out came brick and wheat. From Earth’s hills he smelted tools and fashioned great machines, ships that flew before the wind and silent wheeled servants whose shoulders bore his burdens.

By Earth’s leave he understood the habits of the trees, the ways of fields and flowers, the company of beasts and birds and all other living things. And as he tried and toiled, struggled and succeeded, slowly Man became Earth’s fast companion.

But when his work was finished and his hands were free, Man’s eyes would turn upon the Sky to wonder of the spirits that dwelled within the air, the thunder and the bolts of light, the ancient lamps that moved by night, the shapeless mists that occupied the sphere that lay above.

There came at last a day, a morning soft as spring, warmed by sun and quenched with rain, when all Earth’s secrets were revealed. Ever fountain, every glen, every forest poised and still, the dew that clings to blades of grass, the green of deserts seldom known, the valleys ripe and endless plains, mountains on the brink of Sky, great rivers land could not contain and oceans wide and vast.

All Earth’s treasures great and small were finally displayed. And as if in celebration every living thing rejoiced to know this day had come. The air was filled with joyous sounds. Flowers bloomed in colors not yet named. Trees filled and bowed beneath their fruit. And everywhere the world could feel the Earth’s embrace.

And as day dimmed and night grew near Man alone searched the Sky to watch the stars appear.

And the Earth stood still in disbelief, embarrassed by the favors it so easily bestowed. Gifts that in an instant were forgotten by Man. Angry and alone, disappointed by the companion it trusted and adored, the Earth vowed to capture Man’s attention and keep it for its own and never be indifferent anymore.

And slowly, very slowly in the twilight of that day the Earth turned its face away from where the stars appeared and gazed into the Sky where it had never looked before.

The Earth turned its face until it no longer recognized the stars or remember which ones brought it to the place where it arrived. And when the Earth could only see the sun from the very corner of its eye, it stopped and turned its face no more.

And night surrounded Man. A season fell upon the Earth that it had never known before. Flowers withered in the bitter cold and streams turned into stone. Leaves shivered from their trees and sounds fled the brittle air.

And soon snow began to fall. And it fell without end, as foul and black as ash, driven by an aimless wind, piling deeper than the tallest grass, covering all that dwelled between the Earth and Sky.

And in the cold the snow remained, frozen where it fell.

In the twilight that now was day, the world became a frightening place, a desert ruled by lifeless dust, full of silence and dark shadows. Life trembled with uncertainty and Man was filled with fear.

When the Sky witnessed Earth’s folly, it knew the Earth would still continue but wondered how a living thing like Man could long endure.

So in the darkness of that longest night the Sky collected every color it possessed, the blush of dawn, and carefree blue, the golden crest of flying clouds, the crimson ecstasy of day becoming night.

And carefully the Sky began to paint the falling snow, each flake a different color of blue and red and gold and told the wind to weave them in a seamless, shining cloak to press upon the Earth and keep it from the cold.

And when its work was done there came a different kind of snow. A snow when touched by light became as white as milk or foam, as white as clouds that drift upon the playful Sky. A snow that brightly glistened with a light that was its own, like a lamp that lit the world with a pool of fallen stars, a glaze of jewels that covered every mountain, every plain, every forest near and far.

So there came the news of when shadows grew as dark by night as day, of when beneath a swelling moon the Earth began to reappear, as brilliant as it was before, blanketed with lasting light that only comes with snow.

And now when days grow short and cold, and it seems the sun has disappeared, the faintest star can light the world and hasten winter fears away, because the Sky had made snow white and turned Earth’s darkness into day.


Copyright 1989 Kirk M. Klasson
First published in the Lincoln Review Vol 13 No. 6 Nov. 1989

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