Monday, January 27, 2014

Knapsack 1-30-14

Notes From My Knapsack 1-30-14

Jeff Gill


Blue beyond blue



Shoveling snow is certainly an activity that has its benefits. You clear your drive, you open up the sidewalks on your property (and stay in compliance with village ordinances if you live in town), and you get some great upper-body exercise not to mention aerobic exertion.


Warmth is relative, since this kind of effort increases our heat generation to heat radiation ratio even when it's below zero, and it has certainly been below zero lately. Keep moving, keep layered, or just keep shoveling! Otherwise the shivers set in, and next thing you know you can't hardly keep your teeth from chattering.


I think the Lad's teeth were doing just that when I tried, much to his surprise, to stop him from his labors. He may not have been feeling as warm as I was, partly because I carry a good layer of insulation through the winter (on purely pragmatic grounds, of course), and partly because I may have been chugging along a bit more consistently than he had.


What I probably failed to help him appreciate was a sight that's easy to view but even easier to overlook. A shovel's worth of hole into the snowbank freshly fallen reveals, buried in the icy white, a gentle cast of blue.


You can miss it in the relative shadow, but it's right there once you look. A lovely, even crystalline hue of what I'd enjoy calling cerulean, since that was a word I recall looking up after seeing it in my mom's 64 color crayon box.


Cerulean, sky blue, whatever you call it, why is it there? It's as if the snow has brought down to earth a little of the heaven from which it fell.


Scientifically, we know now about light scattering, a phenomenon of optics that gives the cloudless sky its color; that same scattering throws light through the frozen matrix and you end up with a hint of the results overhead: blue-tinged snow. You can confirm that by reaching in, grasping a handful of the stuff, and pulling it out into the sunlight: the blue is gone, and you have the full sparkle of ice and reflection shining back at you, white where it isn't a rainbow.


I stop, not too long, in my shoveling and wonder what people long ago thought on a winter day when a footprint in a drift or a pocket in the snowbank revealed this same blue. Did they think it was some of the ceiling paint from the sky? The heavens brought down to earth?


What they probably thought in eons past was "oh, blue; now, what am I going to eat next?" and moved on. But that's not fair to prehistoric people, who raised Stonehenge and built the Newark Earthworks and aligned Alligator Mound here in Granville to next week's setting sun, halfway between the equinoxes and the winter solstice.


They thought long and hard about such things, and it's me and the Lad who move on too quickly, wanting to finish the job, and get inside where it's warm.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your winter revelations at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

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