First snowflake (the 99-year interview)

Telluride Daily Planet, Sunday, September 29, 2013


The sky is blue again, bluebird-blue, and the post-summer sun, more than ever committed to its last deeply golden moments, streams down in gushing rays, skipping across exposed human shoulders. There is no intention to burn a tissue layer off the most fledgling of earthly inhabitants, but sun’s potency is formidable.

This having been said, a dusting of white snow covers the peaks. Two days prior, a torrential rain has eventually turned to sleet and then — unequivocally — to snow itself. Mid September. No one has any way of knowing, but this year, the ducks score highest on the shock scale. They don’t like it one bit.

First Winter Snowflake, meanwhile, now a drop of water, has somehow found its way into an interviewer’s palm, who stares at it, wondering where its voice will come from. So far, all the micro-puddle has uttered is a sigh, which the interviewer hears quite unmistakably.

MCW:  [speaking aloud to the center of her open hand] Hard to believe—
FRSTFLK: [throat-clearing sound, without a throat] What, that I can talk? [The voice is sweet and crystal clear, like a fairy the size of a ladybug. With a microphone.]
MCW: That, yes. But, I mean… [hushing] this whole thing.
FRSTFLK: [jiggling happily, like mercury] You mean the whole enchilada? The universe? The gestalt, the hologram, the whole ball of wax? I was told you humans might not even be able to hear my voice, let alone be in wonderment of it all. I guess that element of surprise is your unique gift. Of course, crows were given a smidge of that. Cats think they have it. But humans — they surprise us all the time.
MCW: Hate to disappoint, but I really just meant the elements of talking to a snowflake were hard to believe. No mouth. No brain. It’s like talking to a—
FRSTFLK: I beg your pardon? No brain? [the droplet sways slowly, and, in doing so, the interviewer sees a convex reflection of her own face in the drop]
MCW: I mean, that I can discern. Is your voice different when you’re a snowflake? Can you even speak all frozen solid and flat?
FRSTFLK: For your purposes, no. The crystalline snowflake vibration is out of your audible range. And of course, each of our vibrations is slightly different … because we are all different.
MCW: So, it’s true then. [pauses] No two are alike.
FRSTFLK: [emits nearly inaudible peals of laughter] Who would make that up? Of course we are. [giggles until the very air trills]
MCW: It just seems so … farfetched. To all be so different and so beautiful and so … perfect.
FRSTFLK: Everything is farfetched! [her exclamation pings, like a Tibetan bell] That you pull on pants with pockets is farfetched. Then put things called money in the pockets, or shells, or little messages out of sweet folded-over cookies that remind you how sweet and folded over life is. Or what about this: that you blow air onto your head to make those protein filaments puffier or flatter depending on what you started out with, flatter or puffier. [whistles, high and clear] Wow, baby.
MCW: True—
FRSTFLK: [interrupting] And we haven’t even gotten to the natural world. How about furry stripes on a bumble bee? Lightning cracks across a lavender sky? The segments of a blood orange. An ant’s elbow? A geode filled with its own city of minerals?
MCW: OK, I get it! [about to throw hands up]
FRSTFLK: Watch it! First flake here. Sacred droplet. The only one who is allowed to speak at all — and 99 years out of 100 it doesn’t happen.
MCW: That should have been my first question. Is there really a first flake of the season?
FRSTFLK: [sweetly] Oh, my, yes! And it’s me!
MCW: Then, like, who decides? When did it happen? And how did you land here in my palm?
FRSTFLK: We all decide together. One is chosen.
MCW: You all … decide … together.
FRSTFLK: Yes. Because all snowflakes are connected. We’re part of one big, huge, gigantic snow complex called winter. We are one. We unanimously selected me to represent. And I chose you to interview me because I know you interviewed a hummingbird, once. And there’s only really one thing I came to say — before evaporating at which point I become part of an even bigger thing called the—
A large and lumbering golden-haired dog suddenly bumps into the interviewer, knocking her elbow and hand down. Eyes wide, she feels the drop loosen, a drip form.
MCW: Called the what? Called what? Please!
From far, far away, the interviewer thinks she hears nano laughter, Tinkerbell-ish and exotic. She is rapt, utterly rapt until she feels golden dog’s wet black nose shove itself up against her and lick not only her palm but all her fingers, whatever delicious secrets lost for another 99 years.

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