Winter's Child

Winter's Child
Sharon Hawley Flies North for the Winter

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ludicrous Art and Absurd Theology

Last Sunday I reported seeing tiny sparkles in the air as I looked in the general direction of the sun, but not in other directions. They could not have been falling snowflakes or wind-raised snow on that calm and clear day. They refused to land on my glove and did not show up on my photographs. Yet they glistened for flashing moments, hundreds of them at a time, like tiny fishes turning their shiny sides to the sun in a great blue ocean. Could I have just imagined them, having become cold-crazy as we do at the onset of hypothermia?

On Monday I reported my internet research: Tiny fog-sized droplets of water do not freeze even when the temperature falls well below the freezing point of water. Unless a particle of dust enters a droplet to start the freezing process, the droplet remains super-cooled down to minus twenty or thirty. But in extreme cold, droplets turn to ice and glisten in sunlight. They are called diamond dust. I was encouraged at finding that what I saw was possibly real, and I hoped to find some way to photograph it.

On Tuesday I saw the sparkles again, seeming to come from a vertical rainbow-like column of light which stood beside the sun and glistened with tiny stars.

The next two days were cloudy with no sign of diamond dust. But today I saw it again: unique flashing of minute points, like stars, in the sunlight. As before, the column-rainbow stood in the same position relative to the sun. I was determined to get pictures to prove that I am not cold-crazy. My attempts are shown here. I tried to catch diamond dust against the dark background of a road, the tan color of a car, the white of snow and the blue of sky where they are most distinctive and beautiful. But my pictures are like child’s drawings compared to the real phenomenon. The white spots in these pictures show my sparkles about as well as milk drops might represent stars.

I must ask you to take my word about this marvelous thing that I have seen. None of these pictures do my vision justice. I feel like Moses when he came down from Mount Sinai with tablets of stone in his hands, saying “Look! These are not my carving, they were given to me by God!” And the people said, “Yeah, right. Looks like ordinary carved stone. What’s the big deal?” So Moses, in dismay, broke the tablets, went back up the mountain and carved nicer ones by himself. I feel like going back to carve my own pictures, to render in some way what I have seen, perhaps exaggerating my sparkles to show what I feel they are, rather than how they appear in photos. Then folks might say, “She has become enthralled with these sparkles of hers and wants us to think she really saw them.

Is this the fate of art?—that unless the viewer has seen firsthand the real thing depicted, the art is good only as abstract rendering of some feeling within the artist? If, after rendering my wonderful sparkles in some art form, I am told that I have made a nice fantasy, then I might fall into sulking and think that the sparkles I remember were not really what I saw, but what I wanted to see.

There was only one solution on this bright sparkling day—go to the vacant rink and skate.


  1. Hee hee you do have an imposing skating pose, a kind of snow monster who carries all the weighty theological problems, the inner lightness of a sure visionary, the imposing weightiness of a careful scientist using every tool at her disposal, a poet in awe of nature full of the inner sparkles that come out as words...

  2. In the twinkling of Sharon's eye----for you Sharon. Enjoy.
    Love and Hugs from Gail and Steven :) :)

  3. Imposing, Kathabela? This outdoor skating is new to me. My upbringing was on the enclosed ice of Pasadena Winter Gardens where the air temperature was around forty, and there was usually a film of water on top of the ice. In this photo, the air is about minus ten, and the ice seems harder, especially when I fall. It’s also harder to skate on, or I have lost some talent during the great gap between child play and senior play, and blame the ice. “In awe of nature”—yes, these sparkles are truly awesome.

    Thank you, Gail, for these fine videos. They show the sparkles of diamond dust better than my still photos do and help me to think of myself as not-so-crazy. But even these wonderful videos do not accurately reveal the brilliance, color, and intensity of the real sparkles as I have seen them. White spots seem to be the only tool a photo or video has to show a much more vivid scene.

  4. Thanks for the research on diamond dust, its amazing how little we know about the most simple of things. In fact, they are just learning about rain drops as the fall from the sky and how they collect air on the way down. The rain drops start out big and as they fall some of them collect air on the way down, and then blow up into smaller drops.

  5. Diamond dust is indescribable, un-photographable, and intensely beautiful. I wish you could all see it.


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