Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem. ― William Hamilton Gibson


I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and when I came to the Northeast for college, I have to admit, I was confused by the snow. As a kid, I had always heard that each snowflake was different, a miracle of intricate detail. But that wasn’t what I saw in New York state. I just saw a bunch of blobs falling from the sky. The snow was pretty, and it made everything soft and quiet and mysterious. But I filed the whole “amazing snowflake” thing under legend. It had seemed too good to be true, anyway.

A Snowflake Appears

One evening, I came out out of my college library in my black coat and stepped out into snowfall of large, fluffy cotton balls. As I passed a lamppost, one of the blobs hit my sleeve and scattered into a thousand perfect crystals that shimmered in the light. I was so surprised that I gasped. A guy noticed me standing under the lamppost, holding out my sleeve for more flakes and asked what I was doing. “I just noticed the snowflakes!” I told him. “Just now!” He smiled and said, “Beautiful, aren’t they?”

Yes. Yes, they were so beautiful. I would like to take this moment to mention that I was not a first-year college student when this happened. I was a junior. It had snowed every winter—multiple times—and I had never before noticed the snowflakes. Of course, I now know that not every snow produces perfect snowflakes. Still, there had been many, many snows. Some of them, at least, must have had the flakes. But I didn’t see them, because I didn’t know what I was looking for… or at.


That’s why it’s so important to write often. Writing, for me, is a long, long process of letting the snowflakes take me by surprise. Many times I begin with a thought and discover that, once it’s on paper, it’s not quite as good as I had imagined. It’s a bit of a disappointment.

But every now and then, something ordinary will burst open to reveal something beautiful and unexpected.

The trick is to keep looking, and then, to enjoy it when it appears.