“even in winter an isolated patch of snow has a special quality.”
as the snowfall arrives
there is a soft quiet
a world of white outside
the cottage is filled with color
the center of the snow globe
i’m clearly drawn to whimsical animal art
that is the wing of a peacock kite you see in the upper left corner.
“laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.”
The Snowman’s Oddly Political History
Turns out the winter sculpture has served more than just aesthetic purposes.
If there’s a white, fluffy layer of snow on the ground, odds are you’re itching to play in it. And if you’re playing in the snow, what else would you do but roll it into a ball? And then another, slightly smaller one. And then a third. Stick on some arms, a face and maybe some accessories, and voila: You’ve become a part of a millennia-long tradition.
As long as there have been humans in the snow, there have probably been snowmen. Trying to discover where the first one was built is like trying to track down the first person to ever sneeze; almost as soon as it happened, it was gone. But, throughout history, some of our frosty friends have been more notable than others. And their stories have survived long after the protagonists had melted away.
1. The first snowman ever drawn was Jewish. Uncovered by Bob Eckstein for his book, The History of the Snowman, the earliest known depiction of a snowman sits in a manuscript of The Book of Hours from 1380.The oddly anti-Semitic drawing features a Jewish snowman melting near a fire. The accompanying passage describes the crucifixion of Jesus.
2. Your best snowman will probably never live up to the one Michelangelo made. In 1494, a prince known as Piero the Unfortunate commissioned the artist to build a snowman in the Medici courtyard. Though very little is written about the work, one art critic from the time said it was astonishingly beautiful.
3. Snowpeople have been used as acts of political protest. Though today’s snowman has become a reliable holiday character for those wishing to remain secular and apolitical, they weren’t always used for such impartial purposes. In 1511, people in Brussels were miserable. On top of being poor and hungry, they were also dealing with “The Winter of Death,” where freezing temperatures lingered over the city for months. The government decided that a snowman festival would be perfect for raising spirits. And they were right, just probably not in the way they had hoped. Aspiring snow artists covered the city in pornographic snow sculptures, as well as graphic caricatures of prominent citizens. The officials let them have their fun, hoping that as the sculptures vanished in the spring, the people’s angst would melt away too.
4. The snowman was one of the world’s earliest models. The first photograph of a snowman was taken by Mary Dillwyn in 1845, shortly after the camera was first invented. So, the first photo of a snowman is also one of the first photos of anything. Ever.
5. Snowmen may have helped the French fight Prussia. As the king of Prussia sought to expand his territory by invading Paris in 1870, two French soldiers and artists revived spirits with acts of snow sculpting. In the Bicêtre fortress, they constructed “The Resistance,” a snowwoman sitting on a cannon, and “The Republic,” a stoic snow-bust in a cap. The snow-crafts weren’t enough, though, and Prussia ultimately won the war of 1870. Some historians state that the grudge held by the people of France from this defeat helped drive the country’s victory in World War I.
6. The tallest snowperson in history is from Michigan. The home of the world’s tallest snowman is Bethel, Michigan. Bethel first earned the distinction in 1999 with Angus King of the Mountain. But when no other city rose to take the title in the ensuing years, Bethel decided they’d have to beat their own record. In a feat of feminism, they constructed Olympia – the 122-foot-tall snowwoman – in 2008. She had eyelashes made of skis, lips made of car tires, a 100-foot-long scarf, and a six-foot-long snowflake pendant.
Credits: Smithsonian Magazine, Mental Floss Magazine, The History of the Snowman – Bob Eckstein, The Book of Hours, Annie Garou, Mary Dillwyn, Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.
my class was interested in learning about snow
they knew that it:
comes from up there
falls down to the ground
tastes like peppermint
you can make stuff out of it.
they wanted to learn about snowplows
so we invited our school’s snowplow driver
over for a visit
everyone put on their winter gear
showed them his truck
put on the lights
moved the plow up and down
pushed the snow around the circle
we invited him into our room
to ask him questions
and learn more about him
he told the kids
to call him roger
he was very gentle and kind
he has been here for 28 years
this is his last snowplow winter
he answered every single question
listened to every single comment about snow
they asked him what he does
when he’s not plowing
they were surprised
he lives on 20 acres
has fainting goats, black swans and an aviary of 500 exotic finches
decorates peoples houses for the holidays
is a father and grandfather
who helped to create the children’s garden at our school
he is more than what they saw
when they saw him plowing the snow
now they know him as a person
now they will wave to each other
now they know how he helps our community
now they know how much more there is to his story
when he was finished
and it was time
for him to go back to his work
the children gathered around him and gave him hugs
they know a good person when they meet one.
“i hope I didn’t bore you too much with my life story.” – elvis presley
grandies wake up in the cottage
and run downstairs
to take in all the magic
of the new morning snow
perched atop piles of books
eagerly await the arrival
of their cousins
who will soon help them bake
a team of sweet gingerbread reindeer.
“always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
― e.b. white
the end of our last home game
michigan beats indiana in our first snow
both are cause
in ann arbor
there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. “
image credits: mlive