On the impermanence of snowflakes and art

Beetle Snowflake

The start of a new year brings new ideas, new hopes, new blog posts. One advantage of not being famous is that there’s less pressure to produce scintillating content on a regular basis, but I like to write something here every so often, if only to mark where I’ve been, and to aid my future unofficial biographer.

One thing that’s been on my mind a lot lately is the whole idea of content, meaning the stuff people create for other people to enjoy — stories, books, comics, movies, television programs, podcasts, webisodes, games, apps, articles, essays, drawings, blog posts, and everything else. The word content has always seemed very impersonal to me, reducing all such works to their most utilitarian function, something to be put into buckets for distribution. A YouTube video created in an afternoon is content. A hand-drawn illuminated manuscript created over twenty years is also content. Which one will be “liked” by more people? Which will make more money for its creator? Which will make a lasting contribution to society? And does any of that really matter?

Another thing on my mind in recent months is loss. Not just the loss of people, which is sad in itself, but also the loss of places, ideas, knowledge, hopes and dreams. The world has always been a constant sea of change, but it seems each year there’s more and more stuff in the world, and it’s getting harder to hang onto what’s important, what’s truly meaningful. It’s easy to let important things — and people — slip by our notice until it’s too late, and they slip away forever. Like Alice, we must run just to stay in place, and it’s hard to look around while you’re running.

This winter I tried my hand at cutting paper snowflakes, partly as a way to keep busy when my mind was too distracted to work on “real” projects. Snowflakes are the ultimate in impermanence, they vanish in an instant. And there are far too many in the world for us to notice them all, the vast majority are trampled upon or shoveled aside. Maybe that’s why I like them, I feel like I want to preserve them, to make their short lives count for something.

In any case, here are some of my own paper snowflakes, inspired by nature. All are drawn and cut out by hand, with scissors or x-acto knife.

Turtle Snowflake

Bird Snowflake

Butterfly Snowflake

Bunny Snowflake

Crab Snowflake

Lizard Snowflake

As far as other projects go, I’ve been updating the Sticky Burr webcomic all winter, and the latest episode is now winding down. If you haven’t been reading it, you might want to start at the beginning of the latest adventure, which involves an invasion of beetles and a mysterious hermit, who may or may not be able to save the day.

I also recently started an Instagram account, if you like photos of dragonflies and winter trees. You can find me here at @untendedgarden.

I’m working on some writing projects too, which may find their way to being published someday, if I ever have time to find a publisher. Then they will fly off into the world, a few more snowflakes in a whirling sea of content. Or maybe I won’t want to push them out just yet, perhaps they’ll still be too fragile, and likely to drown?

These are some of the thoughts that cross my mind when I’m trying to work, making it quite difficult to focus on the project at hand. Hopefully I’ll find some focus this year, and have more tangible things to share in the coming months. Thanks for reading, now I’m off to shovel snow!

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