When I went outside Thursday morning, it appeared as if someone had drawn on the windows of my car overnight. Crystallized ferns and frosty feathers had been etched upon the windshield.
These feathery patterns occur when the air is heavy with moisture. Water molecules on cold glass quickly freeze; when the molecules contact microscopic scratches on the glass surface, “seeding crystals” are formed. Additional water molecules rapidly latch onto these seed crystals, growing into intricately graceful fern-like designs.
I almost hated to turn on the defroster; it seemed a shame to destroy nature’s artwork. I wished I could see the patterns backlit by the sun, and let Nature herself wipe clean the glass canvas on which she painted this picture. But I had to get Shannon to orchestra practice; Zero Hour classes take place at 0’dark-thirty before the school buses start running, and before the sun shines. The only backlighting on the windshield was from the red glow of taillights as Keith backed out of the driveway, heading to work.
Fanny Price, Jane Austen’s heroine of Mansfield Park, says, “One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.” Nature is full of surprises. Even the most fanciful ramblings of my imagination could not produce the magical beauty found in something as commonplace as frost on a windshield in February.
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