Standing at the top of a snowy hill you pack a handful of snow into a tight little ball. You put the snowball on the ground and give it a nudge, and as the snowball rolls it gathers more snow, growing in mass with each revolution. By the time it reaches the bottom your little snowball is an unstoppable force.
Right now, around the internet and around the world, most of the people involved with the creation and distribution of content are looking up hill for a snowball. They’re waiting for someone else to come up with the magic business model, for that model to gather mass, for the venture capitalists to fall all over each other trying to profit from it, and for the net-trend opinion makers to wax breathless about the NextBigThing.
Everyone is sure a snowball is coming. Nobody is sure when.
I mention this because it snowed Saturday night. It was the first snow of the season, and it was also a wet snow. Which is why I got up Sunday morning and made this:
(That’s a snow-covered basketball in the lower-right corner of the frame, for scale.)
I’m a big believer in traditions. I don’t believe some traditions have more inherent merit than others, and that’s true no matter how sacred those traditions are to believers or how goofy they seem to outsiders. What I believe is that traditions are meaningful to us as individuals, whether we share those traditions with others or not.
I have a tradition each winter, born of my lifelong love of cold and snow. When the first wet, workable snow falls, I make the biggest snowball I can make. I start with a handful of snow and just keep rolling the ball around until it’s so big I can’t move it.
I do this because I love snow. I have loved snow since I first saw snow, and to this day all I have to do is see falling snow and it makes me smile. My favorite sound in the world is the sound of falling snow.
I also have a goal when I make each year’s snowball, and that’s to keep the snowball until spring. And in this I’ve been fortunate as well. Even when a warm-up melts some of my snowball I simply wait for the next wet snow and build it up again. In a good year I’ll have a fair-sized snowball sitting on a green lawn in May.
One of the best things about personal traditions is that people can’t take them away from you. It’s okay to share traditions with others. But if your traditions rely on others that reliance puts you at risk when those people are not there for you.
As long as there is snow, and as long as my body holds up, I’ll be able to make a snowball. I may be sore for a few days afterward, but I’ll have that big white ball for months on end. When people ask me about it they may roll their eyes when I tell them why it’s there, but my performance-art sculpture will be part of the cultural life of this world until the summer sun calls forth the flowers, and it will make me smile every day.
Don’t wait for your snowball.
— Mark Barrett