Sara Volk


A few weeks ago, Bismarck had one of its first big thunderstorms of the year. And it hailed -- hard. As was to be expected from living in a top-floor apartment during a storm with softball-sized hailstones, I was jolted awake by the assault on our siding and windows. The volume made it impossible to fall back asleep, so I decided to simply stay up while I waited for the storm to blow over. I booted up my laptop and decided to get a little writing done.

Hail is an interesting weather phenomenon; despite the fact that hailstones are literally balls of ice, they are most commonly formed during summer thunderstorms. The frequency of summer thunderstorms in North Dakota makes it the perfect breeding ground for hail storms. But how exactly does hail work? It's eighty degrees out -- how is it raining ice?

It's actually not very complicated; but it is absolutely fascinating (you gotta love science!).

Warm updrafts blow water droplets high into the atmosphere, where it is much colder than on the ground; once the water droplets get high enough, they freeze and fall back down again. If the updraft is strong enough, that small, droplet-sized piece of ice will be pushed back up into the atmosphere, gathering more water droplets as it goes.

This is how a hailstone gets its size -- from layer after layer of water being applied to it and then freezing higher up in the atmosphere. Once the hailstone is too heavy to be pushed back up by the updraft, it falls to the ground (or into a building). Depending on the speed of the wind, the hail may be small, pea-sized bits that melt before even reaching the ground or a softball-sized chunk of ice that can break a window.

The creative process is a lot like the formation of a hailstone. Layer after layer of care and creativity goes into every idea, every project. The process goes through periods of ups and downs, and each subsequent layer adds to the final product. Layers of paint are applied; paragraphs are written and re-written; difficult sections of a melody are practiced.

Your project may not turn out the way you initially anticipated; like an oblong and bumpy hailstone, some things may look off, and it may feel like you failed -- but you have a completed project in front of you. You have something to show for your work. Even if it is imperfect, it's a marker of your effort. Every creative endeavor is unique to its creator. Every project has its own journey. Whether the ride is a bumpy early-morning hailstorm spent writing or a relaxed afternoon spent learning how to paint with a friend, the process itself is well worth it.

Sara Volk is a Bismarck native and the current Special Sections editor at The Bismarck Tribune. When she isn't working to give her cat a better life, she dabbles in baking, sewing and anything nerdy.