Considering Journeys and Snowflakes in August by Nancy Mugele


This past weekend our extended family celebrated two very special young adults who are about to embark upon significant journeys. My niece, born and bred in Baltimore, is heading to Boston to begin a new chapter in her life with a new marketing job in a new city. My son, a writer, is heading out West to places as yet unknown to combine his passion for writing and fly fishing. He has already written the prologue for his book, selected a working title and has a great story about the meaning of three recent bear sightings in Vermont for Chapter One – but I will let him tell you.

While the group was talking together in the final moments of our gathering, my husband mentioned that we needed to head home to Chestertown in time for our sunset. After being teased that since he gets to see a sunset every night he should sit back down and stay a while – he proceeded to say (a little tongue in cheek) that sunsets are like snowflakes, no two are alike. Everyone laughed at this suggestion but I could not stop thinking about the truth in those simple words.

In doing some research on I learned that when we say snowflake, we really mean snow crystal – “a single crystal of ice, within which the water molecules are all lined up in a precise hexagonal array. A stellar snow crystal begins with the formation of a small hexagonal plate, and branches sprout from the six corners when the crystal grows larger. As it tumbles through the clouds, the crystal experiences ever changing temperatures and humidities, and each change makes the arms grow a bit differently.” Thus, snow crystals are each unique based upon their journey toward the earth, just as sunsets are each unique based upon the sun’s daily journey below the earth’s horizon.

Yet, how do words like snowflake get corrupted and who has the right to alter their meanings? Sadly, today, the term snowflake is often used in a derogatory way to describe people, generally young adults, who take offense to things such as political policy changes or offensive comments. They are characterized as being weak and fragile like a flake of snow. Whomever corrupted the term snowflake has apparently never lived through a Nor’easter blizzard in New England. When those snowflakes join together “weak” and “fragile” are not even close to an accurate description.

Instead of snowflakes, I prefer to think of these young people as being mindful of civility, while perhaps being a bit idealistic. But, after all, isn’t that their job – to envision a better and more civil world in which to pursue their dreams? Why can’t we as a society stop trying to put labels on people, and leave words with clear definitions alone – especially those that are as inherently beautiful as snowflake?

Journeys like my niece’s and my son’s are like snow crystals and sunsets – each day will be unique and will bring a new life lesson. And each lesson learned, each experience they hold dear, and each person they meet along their path will help them grow and nurture their minds and hearts. No one is the same person today as they were yesterday, and that is never more true than when one is on a journey to live the life they were meant to lead

Sundown on the Chester is spectacularly unique – day in and day out – cloudy or clear….it is ever changing, yet constant. I take great comfort in that. Bon Voyage Amanda and James. Godspeed.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s. 



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