Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah.
The First week of December, 2016
Tranquility reigns – Clear skies, cold days and nights, no wind or snow,
except on the high peaks above the valley.
Plan A this week was to write a meditation on the subject of snow globes.
Plan B was to engage in a do-it-yourself project to make snow globes myself.
A crafts project to produce gifts for friends and family for Christmas.
To some degree these plans ended in failure.
But failure led to a change of mind and success of a different kind.
Here’s the story:
First, Plan A – reflections:
In childhood I was enamored of snow globes.
I was given my own for Christmas one year.
A glass ball with a snowman inside some liquid, and when I shook it, the snow stirred up and slowly fell. I named the snowman Frosty, of course.
I shook it relentlessly.
The enchantment died when my curiosity got the best of me.
What was inside? How did this work? Was it cold in there?
So I accidently dropped it on a cement slab, and it broke.
That’s what I told my parents when asked.
In fact, I beat it with a hammer until I cracked it open.
And produced some gooey white sludge, a pool of oily water, and a very lame snowman.
I had destroyed the magic and killed the snowman.
There was no way I could repair it, so I cleaned up the mess and buried it in the backyard.
(By the way – It’s not a good idea to break one these days. They contain glycerin and the anti-freeze, glycol. If your cat laps up the liquid, it’s R.I.P. pussycat.)
(Another factoid – you can’t take a snow globe through airport security. They will confiscate it – might contain unknown dangerous explosive liquid inside.)
A snow globe is a form of active visual poetry – a talisman of nostalgia for all the symbols of the holiday season – a condensation in an object of an image of the world and the season you can hold in your hand and get your mind around.
A friend of mine collects snow globes – hundreds now – from antique glass ones containing manger scenes to modern goofy plastic ones that are simply silly.
Each one is a tiny world, and when they are all on display it’s like seeing a model of the multiverses as predicted by quantum physics.
He even has electric snow globes that pulse every now and then to stir up snow on their own. They have an interior light and a built –in music box.
Maybe our Universe is just a giant snow globe – and every once in a while some
Great Force gives it a shake.
My mind feels like a snow globe sometimes – filled with loose ideas that drift around when shook, and then settle down in the conscious ground on the bottom.
* * * *
So – I’m pumped – make snow globes – yes.
When I shook my creative mind, some useless ideas floated down.
1. Go beyond snow and create a dust globe full of red dirt from my neighborhood.
2. Put rice in the globe so that sleet or hail would fall.
3. Get real and fill the globe with tiny trash – an environmental statement.
4. Get silly and put a chicken in the snow – never seen one of those.
5. Go minimalist Zen and put nothing but snow in the globe.
My enthusiasm began to wane.
Kits are available online – mostly from Amazon. No, thanks.
I could make a real home-made snow globe – just using a jar with a lid, plus
distilled water, a tea-spoon of glycerin or baby oil, and glitter.
But no, that didn’t encourage me.
The problem was that I didn’t know what to put inside the snow globe.
I couldn’t get clear on the message I wanted to send.
Making my own snow globes began to fall into the category of “It seemed like a good idea at the time, but . . .”
My enthusiasm for snow globes slowly faded away.
So, I put the project in the trash can at the back of my mind.
And tried to think of something else to make and write about.
Plan B – And then what happened?
Walking around outside in the snow – among pine and juniper trees, and along the creek through the stands of willows, I noticed that the buds of next year’s leaves were already formed – that what seemed inert in early winter was in fact packed with life-in-process, primed already for spring. Life doesn’t need shaking – it’s always on the move.
That’s when I realized why the snow globes idea wasn’t working for me.
They represented stasis – even death, in a way. There was something so artificial and cute and clever about them – but they had no vitality of their own.
There is no life in a snow globe.
A memory of a junior high biology class came back to me. We created a terrarium – like a gold fish tank, but with small plants and sand and rocks and water.
The teacher put the terrarium outside on several warm afternoons. In a short time, there were new plants growing from spores that were floating in the air outside. And very quickly small insects appeared – tiny spiders and creatures we had never seen before. We had been midwives to a small world – an ecosystem full of life.
A quick trip to Google Images brought up pictures of very small terrariums.
The same size as snow globes – but full of that stuff of ongoing life.
Oh, and Aha . . .
So now you know why my winter project now is to make small terrariums – glass containers of tiny green growing plants – open to oxygen and water and insects – requiring human interaction – standing for the on-going-ness of existence in the dead of winter. Like the Earth, the contents require human attention.
I can make and give these small creations with enthusiasm –
“Here, a present for you – a small sample of the mystery of Planet Earth and our place in it. Take care of it.”