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Thread: The Snowflake Collector

  1. #16
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    The Snowflake Collector – 10: George

    The moment he woke up the next morning, The Snowflake Collector thought only one thought: ‘George.’

    That was his name. It would have to be. There was no other possibility. If he were still to be there, if the gel into which he had settled had not crushed him, or dried him out, or obliterated him; if he were still to be a snowflake today, then there was a chance – maybe a slim chance only, but a chance! – that he would still be a snowflake tomorrow, and if he were to be a snowflake tomorrow, still, there may be a chance that the method had worked, that this gel was the formula that he would need to – be able to, now – apply. But time only would tell. Certainly, if he were to find him still there, where he had left him, on the kitchen table, then that would be a good sign. But it would be no more than that. And surely his name would have to be George.

    The Snowflake Collector got up from his narrow hard bed and wandered slowly into the kitchen: a short distance that felt to him this morning eternally long. He did not want to cast his eyes over the table in the dim light that filtered through the small window, but before he could avert them, George had caught them, was calling them over to him: look at me, I am here! The miracle was complete. Not only was he still there, he seemed to radiate, to shine. Now, some fourteen hours after he had come into contact with the peculiar liquid inside the glass cube that had caught him, enveloped him, slowed him and then suspended him just precisely in time before he was able to sink to the bottom or dissolve, he seemed made of crystal indeed: it was quite extraordinary. The Snowflake Collector lifted the cube from the table and held it up against the still pale light in which particles of dust engaged in their strangely courteous dance, and a swell of joy welled up in his heart as he saw: George is alive! He was as alive as any snowflake that wasn’t engaged in its own dance still, through the sky toward earth, could possibly be; he was vivid and compelling; he had as much character as any inanimate thing The Snowflake Collector had ever seen, and he knew now, for certain, The Snowflake Collector, that this was not a thing without soul: this was George, the most exquisite snowflake ever formed in the world, perfectly captured, by him.

    The gel, overnight, had solidified into a firm but not hard cast that was still absolutely transparent and that seemed to allow George to breathe. Of course, The Snowflake Collector knew, in reality George did not breathe, and the cube was hermetically sealed, but it was a minimal malleability that seemed to keep George animated, if, certainly, no longer free. The Snowflake Collector put George down on the kitchen table and stepped outside his hut and wiped the thin layer of snow from the table that stood out there, and he found, as he knew he would, noted down on it the last set of proportions he had used, and he now copied them onto a piece of wood that he picked up from the floor, and took them inside: this was the key, and it was unique. Not in the way he had heard on occasion some people call something 'unique' when they meant it was simply 'special', or 'well made', or 'quite interesting'. This was a thing that was one of a kind: no-one else had found it before him and maybe nobody else ever would, or would want to, again, and it was far from certain that it would stand the test of time that now loomed before it, but for the time-being this was what he himself had achieved, and so far it was good; and if George were still to be there in October, or in November, or even December, whenever next the valley would be covered in snow, then he would apply this same formula to make the gel in which to preserve other snowflakes and he would store them in a new sturdy case he would build to accommodate the new dimensions of these cubes, and if the following year, and the year after, all these snowflakes, and George, were still there, then he would be who he had decided to be, who he felt in his heart and knew in his mind he needed to be: he would become The Snowflake Collector, and Yanosh would be able to take pictures of these snowflakes with his macro lens that he had bought for his camera, and everything would be just so.

    After this short burst of snow in the middle of June, the valley soon reverted to summer, and The Snowflake Collector put George on his own in the new case that he’d built, and occasionally he would take him out to look at him in awe. Yanosh spent some time away as sometimes he did this time of year, but when he came back to The Snowflake Collector’s hut late in August, he found him in a hopeful mood, and in good spirits. George was still there and he hadn’t lost any of his intricate beauty. The gel that had nearly hardened, but not quite, was still exactly as clear and still just a little flexible, it hadn't hardened any further and nor had it softened, it had simply stayed as it was, neither hard nor soft, neither wet nor dry, neither hot nor cold, but all of these all at once and none of these, all at the same time.

    The Snowflake Collector was ecstatic – quietly, inwardly so, as was his wont – at having, it seemed, found a way to preserve his snowflakes in their full three dimensions, but of course he was also worried, and gravely concerned: what about their fourth dimension, he wondered, and fifth? Even as I name these snowflakes and know that they each have a soul, how can I do that soul justice? How can I trap a snowflake and pat myself on the back, when I haven’t but caught it and barely scraped the surface of understanding what a snowflake truly is?

    Yanosh was unperturbed by all this. ‘You’ll get to know them,’ he said, in his simple, laconic tone that was never agitated, and never bored, ‘and as you get to know them, they will reveal to you their fourth dimension, and fifth, and even, if they have one, their sixth.’ This rang true with The Snowflake Collector and he held the arm of Yanosh – the first time possibly he had ever done so – and said ‘Thank you, Yanosh. I hope you are right.’

    But what if he weren’t right, what if what Yanosh had said was well intentioned, but simply not true? There was no way of knowing, there was no way of anticipating, there was no way of solving this problem now. All The Snowflake Collector could do now, and for the remaining months of the year, until snow returned to the valley, whenever that should happen to be the case, was to look after George and prepare himself, for winter would come and with it would come the moment of truth and only then, come the moment of truth, could he really commence with his task.



    from EDEN by FREI at www.EDENbyFREI.net
    Last edited by FREI; 01-06-2016 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Cosmetic tweak

  2. #17
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    With Each Day that Passed

    Here, for those of you who are enjoying The Snowflake Collector, a short excerpt from Part 1, which I've just released as my New Year's video...https://youtu.be/8Aks32WBcUk

  3. #18
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    Yes, I am enjoying it. Just read this on photographing snowflakes: http://earthsky.org/earth/how-to-tak...7567-394044013

  4. #19
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    Thanks, Dreamwoven: I came across this too, not long ago, and there is also, it transpires, a real life story of a snowflake photography pioneer: though he did not inspire The Snowflake Collector (I only became aware of him as I was doing a bit of research for this story), he does remind me of him, naturally... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Bentley

  5. #20
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    Yes, indeed, I didn't know about Wilson Bentley, thanks for the link to that fascinating Wikipedia item.

  6. #21
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    The Snowflake Collector – 11: He Was, Now More Than Ever, His Own Man

    Winter did return to the valley, a little later each year now, it seemed, and with winter returned the snow and with the snow began in earnest The Snowflake Collector’s task.

    He applied his formula and mixed according to it his extraordinary liquid that had just the right qualities, the exact consistency and molecular structure to capture snowflakes as they sank into it, without melting them, without damaging, harming them, but able to, so far as the continued existence of George suggested, preserve them for not only seconds or minutes or hours or days, but for months, maybe years. And he quickly found that the differentials of success over failure were minuscule. It took him many days and every day several attempts just to recreate a small quantity of the solution and even then the snowflake that sank into it only kept its shape for a moment before it melted and passed.

    Not only were the proportions of the ingredients to each other of critical importance, but the stillness of the liquid inside the cube – one inch by one inch by one – and, particularly, the precise temperature at the point of entry made the difference between death and a continuation of life, in some sense, of the snowflake that was being captured. Even how long it took him to seal the cube after capturing a snowflake mattered to how likely the snowflake was to stay intact. His task, he soon realised, was not just immense, it was also extraordinarily difficult and demanding. But he did not mind. And he no longer despaired. He had, on his shelf in his hut, one pristine, perfect specimen of a snowflake, the one he had named George, and George was still there, he still shone like a tiny beacon that whispered of the attainable, and as long as he was there, there was a point, there was a purpose, there was a reason, and if it was one reason only, to persist.

    Innumerable may be the failures now – and innumerable, though they weren’t, they felt – before The Snowflake Collector would succeed in capturing even just one snowflake as exquisite as George, but he knew now it was possible, and that was all he needed to know. And as he persevered he was able to, slowly, gradually, attain other, similar miniature triumphs. None, perhaps, felt as glorious as George had felt, that surprising day in the wrong season when he had landed upon him, but each brought its own little joy, its own advancement, sometimes followed, shortly after, by a setback, a failure, even a minor catastrophe. But none now were in that sense a disaster.

    He carefully crafted more sturdy boxes for the glass cubes that he made, and he filled one, then another, with snowflakes that he named, each as he caught it, and regularly Yanosh would come up to his hut, and now they often found they had something to talk about. They still mainly just nodded at each other to signal ‘hello’ and then when they parted they signalled ‘goodbye’ in a similar way, but as The Snowflake Collector himself now spent so little time sitting outside his hut and so much time cutting glass plates, assembling them into cubes, building boxes, mixing liquids, studying the effects these liquids had on the snowflakes and the effects that these snowflakes had on the liquids, and perfecting his practice, Yanosh seldom now simply sat outside The Snowflake Collector’s hut to watch him, or watch the world go by – which didn’t go by here, as both of them knew, even though both of them knew also that it also never stood still – but helping him, if there was some way to help, or, if not, then photographing these snowflakes in their exceptional beauty.

    And as The Snowflake Collector honed his technique, he became not only better at what he was doing, he slowly developed into an expert at snowflake collecting and beyond an expert he became a master at it; he began to understand these snowflakes as they spoke to him in their silent presence, and he learnt to absorb and to internalise their essence. He still wasn’t able to communicate it, but he felt that maybe that wasn’t so necessary now, because as he was becoming a master at snowflake collecting, Yanosh kept taking pictures of them, and he too got better at taking pictures of snowflakes, and although he did not have any desire to become an expert at snowflake photography, or let alone, in these young years of his, a master at anything yet, his pictures were astonishingly compelling, and, as he did with any picture he had taken and of which he thought that someone else might like the look of, he posted some of these snowflakes online, and predictably people were struck by their wondrousness.

    Without knowing it, The Snowflake Collector acquired a following. Yanosh didn’t make much of the fact that the picture collections he set up on his social network began to spread and attract the attention of admirers all over the world. To him, that was just what happened when you posted pretty pictures. But there was something about these snowflakes that set them apart from other pictures of snowflakes. Maybe it was the way in which they were kept, in these glass cubes, floating, it seemed, in a gel that lent them their luminous sheen, maybe it was the names that The Snowflake Collector gave them and that Yanosh faithfully transferred when he labelled his pictures, or maybe it was just the unfussy tenderness of Yanosh’s framing, exposure and understated postproduction that made them look as complex as nature and as simple as geometrical art, it was impossible to tell.

    What was certain was that The Snowflake Collector’s snowflake collection grew, and as it grew and grew more captivating, it captured the imagination of more people, and it wasn’t so long before some of these people, either because they happened to be in the relative vicinity of the valley already or because they felt this was as good a reason as they needed to come to the valley, started to visit him. The Snowflake Collector was not keen on visitors, by and large, but as they were few of them only in number and their appearance in the valley was infrequent, he welcomed them and introduced them to some of his snowflakes, individually, selectively, and by name, and the visitors would tell their friends about these encounters in conversations and post pictures of their own of the snowflakes and of The Snowflake Collector, recounting their stories, and invariably, as The Snowflake Collector’s reputation grew, ‘the media’ finally cottoned on to him. At first it was just a young journalist who took an interest in these curious tales she’d heard and who was fascinated by the pictures she 'discovered' when doing a quick search online, and she came to the valley and did a sensitive portrait of him that appeared somewhere in a paper that few people read.

    This was picked up by another and soon yet another, and without ever wishing it so, The Snowflake Collector found himself famous. He did not understand the reason for this. He was The Snowflake Collector, what he did was collect snowflakes. He was generous with his snowflakes and he would introduce them to anyone who came to him curious to meet them, but he did not think that what he was doing – although as a task immense and demanding – was something that anyone else so disposed as he could not easily do.

    The people who came to visit him, most particularly those who came from ‘the media’ found this quaint and endearing. The Snowflake Collector knew they were patronising him, but he did not mind about that either. He felt no anger towards them, and no contempt. These were the same people – not the same individuals, of course, but broadly speaking representatives of the same culture – that had for decades ignored and belittled him. Even ridiculed him. But those long years he had spent in the big city among them, trying to be taken seriously by them, attempting to create, wishing himself noticed by them, they had washed away with the meltwater that had rushed down the stream by which he kept his small plot of land with the trees that he planted, two for each one that he cut down to use for his modest needs. He had no fear of them now and no regard other than the regard he had, and had kept, always, for all human beings: they were friends in as much as they were certainly not enemies, for to grant someone the status of enemy is to give them power over you and The Snowflake Collector had long ceased to give anyone power over himself. He was, now more than ever, his own man.



    from EDEN by FREI at www.EDENbyFREI.net

  7. #22
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    The Snowflake Collector – 12: There Was Nothing Now But the Snow

    When Yanosh found him, lying in the snow, he was as cold as the earth and as grey as the sky and as still as the heart that stopped beating. For many years, Yanosh had been coming to visit him, up at the end of the valley, even though he had long ceased to live in the hamlet outside the village, an hour or so’s walk from the hut, and for many days The Snowflake Collector had been lying on the ground in the snow, on his back, his eyes facing up to the sky whence the snowflakes kept on descending.

    These eyes, these cheeks, now sunken-in, these bristles of his beard, had long been covered by a pristine blanket of white, and no birds were up here, this time of year, to pluck at the eyeballs, no vermin or hungry beast to tear at his flesh: he was already at rest. When Yanosh wiped the snow off his face, he saw that he’d closed his eyes and fallen asleep, there was no stare, there was no anguish in his features, there was nothing now but the snow.

    He had long since grown at one with universe, The Snowflake Collector, and nothing else mattered now. He had his meaning. He had his hut and his priceless collection of snowflakes which grew every day that the sky brought him snowflakes, he had a friend in Yanosh who came to see him every so often when he was in the country and a friendly face in Yanosh’s mother Yolanda whom he saw at the inn on the few and fewer occasions he went down there for an ale, and he had the occasional visitor who had seen Yanosh’s pictures of his snowflakes online or read about his collection in an article or heard about it from a local or an acquaintance, or learnt of it from a book.

    Very rarely, hardly ever, had he accepted an invitation to go down from the valley and undertake a journey, by bus and by train and sometimes by plane, to one of the cities to address a conference or a symposium or a convention and talk about his understanding of snowflakes.

    He knew that he could not communicate his understanding of snowflakes to the world by talking about them and he couldn’t by writing about them – which he never attempted – and he couldn’t by showing them to Yanosh who photographed them and posted his pictures of them online. But he felt he could perhaps give something back to a universe that had, in the end, and on balance, treated him fairly and with care, by humouring these people who now, now that he no longer craved their attention, clamoured for him and professed that they longed to know of his mind.

    He knew, The Snowflake Collector, that snowflakes had many dimensions – seven at least he could think of, but probably more – and he could see these dimensions clearly and distinctly in his mind’s eye even though he knew he would never be able to see them with his physical eye, nor represent them visually, nor show them to Yanosh, or anyone else. He would not be able to explain them, nor would he ever be able to convince anyone in the world that these snowflakes had many dimensions, seven at least, but possibly more, because he knew enough of the world and its violent rejection of anything it couldn't see with its eyes and measure with its instruments and comprehend in the context of its current science to realise that any attempt of his to do so would remain futile; he knew of the world's irrational fear of anyone and anything deemed irrational, and he felt not foolish enough, any more, to argue or make a case.

    What he could do, and did do, was to collect these snowflakes in their physical three dimensions as one who knows of their further dimensions and as one who knows that what he was able to show Yanosh, and what Yanosh was able to show the world, was not just less than half of what a snowflake was, but only the tiniest fraction, because he also knew, The Snowflake Collector, that each additional dimension does not add to a thing as much as the previous one, but each additional dimension increases the complexity of the thing exponentially.

    He would never, he knew, be able to explain this or convince anyone that this was so, but the thought alone of it made The Snowflake Collector extraordinarily happy; and elated by this happiness, he felt, for the rest of his days on this earth, in his valley, in love. He was in love with George, the first snowflake he had successfully collected by his own particular method, and he was in love with Yanosh whose loyal friendship sustained him, and he was in love with the valley and the mountains that made the valley, and with the stream that ran through it, and with the trees that he planted on the plot of land that he kept by the stream, two young trees for each old tree he cut down, and with the old trees he cut down just as much, and he was in love with Yolanda who served him his unfussy ale when he went to the inn on few and fewer occasions, and he was in love with the universe and he sensed, because of this, the universe, in equal measure, love him.

    And he knew, then, The Snowflake Collector, that he would be able to communicate to the world his understanding of snowflakes and their dimensions not through words, not through the snowflakes he collected in the glass cubes that he cut, one inch by one inch by one, not through the pictures that Yanosh took of these snowflakes in their glass cubes, floating in the mysterious, but not magical, gel that he had developed, not through drawing, describing or dancing them, but through love.

    And if only one other person – be it Yanosh, or be it Yolanda, or be it a random visitor to his hut, or be it someone who came across him or his snowflakes or his story – were to experience that love and through that love these dimensions and through these dimensions were to know of the soul of the snowflake, then his work, he was certain, was worthwhile and his communion complete.

    He was now, he felt, as he took all the glass cubes he had carefully crafted over the years from the sturdy boxes he’d made, which, after a while, had needed their own formidable shed, and broke each one open and allowed the gel to evaporate and the snowflake he had collected in it to escape back into the universe and become what it needed to become next, and, having spent many hours so freeing his snowflakes, lying down on his back in the snow, welcoming down upon him new snowflakes that he no longer now would collect but simply become a part of, he was now, he knew, as he lay there, after another hour or so closing his eyes and holding his hands open to the sky and allowing the blood to drain from his brain and the pulse to ebb from his temples, he was, now that he had been and no longer needed to be The Snowflake Collector, he was now at one with it all.




    from EDEN by FREI at www.EDENbyFREI.net
    Last edited by FREI; 02-13-2016 at 11:57 AM. Reason: minor tweaks

  8. #23
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    This is very moving and makes a fine ending.

  9. #24
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    Thank you Dreamwoven; and thank you for persevering with it. It has been reassuring and encouraging to receive your positive comments. I may, in due course, start another, very different story...

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    I certainly will look forward to reading it!

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    Just started: Pyromania

    Hello Friends

    For those of you who enjoyed The Snowflake Collector, I've now started serialising a new short story in this forum: Pyromania.

    (Though perhaps also a word of caution: the fact alone that you enjoyed The Snowflake Collector, if you did, may not guarantee that you'll also like Pyromania. It's a very different kind of story...

    Still, I'm grateful for your interest and appreciation and always interested in your comments.

    FREI

  12. #27
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    "...awaiting in silence the dread bounce of spring."

    Here, on the eve of Easter, the snow melting eighth instalment of The Snowflake Collector also now as an audio file on Soundcloud:

    https://soundcloud.com/edenbyfrei/th...nse-a-disaster

    (I would have appended this to the relevant entry above, but it appears I can't edit that any longer...)

  13. #28
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    "...after a month of May full of sunny disposition, bordering on the obnoxious..."

    Also on Soundcloud now: the ninth instalment of The Snowflake Collector – So as Not to Chase Away its Wonder

    https://soundcloud.com/edenbyfrei/th...way-its-wonder

  14. #29
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    I don't know what Soundcloud is (though I can guess)- But it is well worth recording this fine verse somewhere so as to preserve it.

  15. #30
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    thanks, dreamwoven, that is very kind and generous of you to say: i shall persevere! (and my apologies for the tardy response, i have, for topical reasons, spent a bit of time starting a new parallel 'project': to record all of shakespeare's 154 sonnets and every saturday pick one to talk about in a bit more detail. if you or anybody else here is interested: http://www.thesonneteer.info/the-sonnets.html )

    more from the snowflake collector soon!

    (oh, and soundcloud is just an audio file hosting platform; mostly for music, really...)

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