Snow danced and swirled, driven across the lake by brisk winds. Jenn looked out her cabin’s window and sighed. She put more wood on the fire. The cabin was small enough that a wood stove was sufficient for heat.
Sitting at a table by the window, Jenn leafed through her sketchbook. It was filled with drawings of snowflakes. Jenn had not yet figured out what she was trying to capture in these drawings. She just kept observing snowflakes and drawing what she observed.
Snowflakes had a few basic shapes but Jenn was most fascinated by the minute differences that made each flake unique. There were little spikes and bumps that varied ever so slightly. A side might be slightly long, skewing the shape. No two were the same. None seemed to have whatever it was Jenn sought.
Closing the sketchbook, Jenn put on a coat and headed out to her studio with a sketchbook in hand. The studio was a small shed, originally intended for storage. Jenn did her observations and drawings there. It was cold enough to allow Jenn to observe snow without it melting. At the same time, the walls gave her some protection from the wind.
Jenn deposited the sketchbook on a table, then scooped up a few flakes of snow with a spoon. She put the flakes on a tray. A magnifier over the tray gave Jenn a good view of individual snowflakes. Jenn carefully examined the snowflakes until one caught her eye. Then she started drawing. Jenn could not leave her gloves off for long in the cold air, so she had mastered fast, precise sketching.
When one drawing was finished, Jenn warmed her hands between her thighs. Then she started another followed by another. All the snowflakes were of the same shape but there were subtle differences that Jenn worked to capture.
After a dozen snowflakes, Jenn dropped her pencil and sighed. She rubbed her eyes and shook her head.
“Why am I doing this? What the hell am I trying to create?” she said aloud.
The howl of the wind was the only answer. Suddenly, Jenn felt very lonely, very isolated. The traumas of the past Fall rushed in on her.
Her job as a graphic artist had disappeared after four years, victim of a corporate merger. At almost the same time, her fiancé confessed to an affair with a neighbour. While the resulting breakup had been amicable, it left an even bigger hole in Jenn’s life than the loss of her job. Unemployed and brokenhearted, Jenn retreated to the off-grid cabin.
Jenn’s obsession with snowflakes started shortly after arriving. She had drawn the first one as an exercise but soon found herself doing more. That led to her creating the studio in the shed where she spent even more time drawing them. Jenn even made forays to a nearby town to use the library’s Internet for research.
But now Jenn wondered why she was so obsessed. What was it about snowflakes that she wanted so badly?
“I’m wasting my life on these little bits of frozen water, aren’t I?” she sighed.
Shaking a little, and not just from cold, Jenn went back to the cabin. She shed her coat and huddled on the couch, wrapped in a blanket. Soon Jenn lay down with the blanket as a cover. Lulled by the quiet crackle of the fire and the warmth, Jenn slipped away into sleep.
Jenn found herself outdoors in just sweatpants and a sweater, with no coat or boots. She did not feel cold, though. Around her, large snowflakes drifted down. Jenn captured a couple of the flakes on her hand. Taking a close look at them, she was stunned to realize that they seemed identical.
“That’s impossible,” she thought.
Jenn turned and realized she was standing in front of the cabin. Carefully holding her two snowflakes, she went quickly to the shed. While the wind blew as strong as ever, the chill felt strangely warm on her skin.
In the shed, Jenn put the flakes on the tray. She gazed at them through the magnifier, breathing and heart speeding up with excitement. Not only were they identical but Jenn sensed that these were the snowflakes she sought as she drew flake after flake. Racing outside, Jenn caught some more. They were also identical under magnification.
There was a sketchbook on the work table so Jenn went to work. Her drawing seemed more perfect, more precise than ever. When she was done, Jenn had three perfect snowflakes in her sketchbook. They were beautiful, more beautiful than anything the artist had ever drawn before.
Heart beating fast, Jenn raced outside and danced in the blowing snow.
“They are beautiful!” she cried.
Jenn paused in the wind, a smile on her face. So, is this what she sought? Was her obsession with snowflakes a search for beauty?
Starting to laugh, she shouted, “I have found beauty. I really have!”
The wind snatched Jenn up. She soared high through the cold winter air. Elated, Jenn danced and laughed amidst perfect, beautiful flakes of snow.
Jenn sat up on the couch, still feeling the exhilaration of her dream. For a moment, she could only sit, trying to calm her heart and steady her breathing. Then Jenn rose and went to her table. A sketchbook was missing.
She put on her coat and raced to the shed. The wind had grown stronger, the snow heavier. Still, Jenn pushed through the storm to the shed. Her heart raced with anticipation of what lay within.
The missing sketchbook sat open on the table next to the magnifier. The tray was empty. On the open page was a sketch of three perfect, beautiful snowflakes.
Jenn sank sobbing into her chair. For uncounted minutes, she cried. Then calm fell over her. Jenn had found beauty. The events of the Fall suddenly felt like sad, distant memories.
Taking the sketchbook, Jenn went back to the cabin. She smiled as she started packing.