Tag Archives: snow

strange brew. the mix of politics, snowmen and history.

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                                                     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.

first-snowman                                              First Snowman – Mary Dillwyn/National Museum of Wales

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.

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“how many cares one loses when one decides not to be something but to be someone.” ― coco chanel

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my class was interested in learning about snow

they knew that it:

comes from up there 

falls down to the ground

is cold

tastes like peppermint 

and 

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 

headed outside 

where he

showed them his truck

put on the lights 

moved the plow up and down

and 

pushed the snow around the circle

then

we invited him into our room

to ask him questions

and learn more about him

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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 

and

a horticulturist 

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

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 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

lookout.

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grandies wake up in the cottage

and run downstairs

to take in all the magic

of the new morning snow

and 

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

playing in the snow.

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the end of our last home game

as

michigan beats indiana in our first snow

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and

both are cause

for

excessive celebration 

in ann arbor 

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“sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating;

there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. “

-john ruskin

image credits: mlive

the only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. – wallace stevens.

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           ice cream in the snow: dairy queen opens for the season

looking for a sign a spring? like a daffodil peeking out of the frost-covered ground, the dairy queen has removed its shutters and turned on the “open”sign, even as the parking lot and picnic table remain dusted with snow.

the seasonal soft-serve ice cream destination opened for the season on monday, and will operate daily from noon to 8 p.m. – rain, snow or shine – for the time being. once the weather warms up and demand for ice cream intensifies, the shop’s hours will extend.

my advice to you is not to inquire why or whither,

but just enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate.

-thornton wilder

credits: jessica w, ann arbor news, mlive.com

 

 

snow.

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snow day

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow, 
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness, 
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

credit: Billy Collins, “Snow Day” from Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems (New York: Random House, 2001). Copyright © 2001 by Billy Collins.