“The Snowflake Man” they dismissed him as if it would hurt. As if that name wasn’t his and he hadn’t spent every storm in the wind, out catching crystals and preserving their shapes and their stories — from how high they’d fallen through what kind of sky, from which direction they’d blown, in what month they had come to earth. He knew them, those snowflakes, as closely as he knew the inside of his house and his mind and someday the others might see it if he kept his photographs clear and his logbooks of weather updated. If he kept his camera steady and sure and if the racking coughs that had lately plagued him paused long enough for each portrait.
Other men had gone north and he’d followed their exploits for years between the yellow covers of his magazines, their triumphant returns and sometimes their loss on the ice. Other men had gone north to find the source of the snows and why not, while he waited for those same snows to come south to him. While he made expeditions into the deep known and the familiar acres of his Vermont farm. His greatness, however much there might be, would come close to home where he inscribed those fleeting hieroglyphics — already melted before their image had set — onto paper and glass plates and time.
Rarely he was asked what he saw in the snow, more often asked what was wrong with his head, but the nearest he’d come to an answer was explaining each storm as a library’s wing, a collection of disparate complementary volumes he would never read the whole of but, if he did his work well, might leave behind some useful key for other readers he had yet to meet. They might read in his steady hand, Cold north wind afternoon, Snow flying, and see his snowflakes photographed and blown up to fit in an eye, and they might discover a world both larger and smaller than they’d ever known and might set out to see it themselves.