The other day I heard a strange noise and looked out of the window. The grass was covered in white balls. I opened the front door and as I did so the hail began to fall much harder. The white balls were bouncing back up a couple of feed from the ground they were hitting it so hard. It didn’t last long. Just a few minutes.
Once it had stopped I took a wander to have a look. (And of course take some photos).
Look at this one. Yep, it’s a hailstone but what thoughts spring to your mind when you look at it.
The first thing I thought was that it looked like an eyeball. That was a strange feeling….to look at it and feel like it was looking right back at me. Have you ever tried that? Just looking right into someone else’s eyes (it’s best if they’ve already agreed to do this!) for a few minutes. Just looking, without smiling, without saying anything, without making any faces. It is powerful. Very powerful.
The next thing I thought was that it looked like a cell, complete with a nucleus. Got me wondering for a few moments about the first cells on Earth. Where did they come from? Well, not from the sky in a storm, as far as I know….or did they?? No, I’m pretty taken with the idea that the first cells (of the kind we are made of) were created by other cells getting together and specialising to perform different functions. So some became ribosomes, and some became mitochondriae, others formed the boundaries, the cell walls, whilst others became nuclei.
How did that all happen?
And how does it continue to happen? Every day, these billions of cells in our bodies containing this incredibly elaborate, interconnected set of elements, none of which would be a cell without the others.
And, no, I don’t know where the first cells came from either – the simpler ones without all these amazing parts….
Then I wandered around taking a few more photos and quickly came up against the old teaching that there are no two snowflakes the same. Well, I can tell you, I looked at a lot of hailstones. I picked several up. I photographed a few of them. But I never found two the same.
Don’t you think that’s astonishing?
That these ice particles fall in their millions from the sky, all of them not long formed out of cloud particles, and no two of them are the same.
Uniqueness. Isn’t that one of the most fundamental qualities of our world?
OK, one last thought….as I held a hailstone in my hand, it didn’t take long for it to melt into water. Well, there we go, that ages old cycle of change and transformation. That deep rhythm of the beating heart of the world. Ice to water, water to vapour, vapour to clouds, clouds to water again to fall as rain, or turn to ice and fall as hail, seeping away into the dark earth, slipping between between the blades of grass, to make its way to the underground waterways, emerging as springs, streams, rivers and finding its way back to the sea to be warmed by the sun again, whipped up by the wind again, and rise again to become clouds.
Oh, I just love that. Don’t you?