Avalanche!

Every four years, like clockwork, something truly amazing takes place deep in the arctic, but scientists aren’t in total agreement about how or why it happens.

Some propose that it begins with a massive, cyclical abundance of lemmings which causes snowy white owls to have excessive numbers of healthy babies, who then need to leave the arctic to find lemming-like food products due to the increased competition with all of the other babies.

Others have concluded that it is actually a dearth of lemmings which causes the usual crop of baby owls to go unusually hungry and so must leave the arctic in search of lemming-like food products.

Whatever the case, it clearly is all about the lemmings, and it is clearly a huge treat for us.

The winter of 2020/21 was one of these very special seasons. Scientists call this event an irruption. I call it an avalanche because it truly is an avalanche of SNOW which comes tumbling down upon us from the top of the earth, burying us in adorable, enchanting owls and showing us what a gift life on earth is. Irruption years are avalanches of wonder, and joy.

And these irruptions can also bury us in pictures. Even though I accidentally destroyed my professional camera gear this past summer, the snowy owls were so conspicuously abundant along the mid-atlantic coast this winter that I still somehow managed to take more photos than I could possibly ever develop. You might have been buried in photos too from photo sites, social media, or friends, family, and neighbors who got outside to witness this very special event.

The 2020/21 irruption was one I will never forget because it was also an avalanche of people; the confluence of lockdowns, quarantines, and layoffs with an arctic irruption got more more people than ever before outdoors, in the wilderness, and focused on something that is not only not human, but from a rare part of the world which has continually foiled our attempts to control it.

It was just what the doctor ordered. It turns out that a small dose of SNOW is the perfect prescription for our feverish mental, emotional, and spiritual state. The catharsis was palpable and the joy contagious. I hope something in this exhibit will share this experience with you.

I’m now going to attempt to dig myself out of this pile of SNOW. Just as any avalanche surely began with just a single snowflake, I’m going to get out of this in the same way. One, precious snowflake at a time!

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