This winter, we’ve had plenty of snow. For some, that’s been trying. For others, it’s been inspiring.
Take Laura Wootton, for example. Last year, during the pandemic, Laura decided that she was going to create snow hearts for people to find. She told me that she was inspired by all of the hearts that she comes across in nature, ever since her dad passed away in 2017. When she would come across a pebble that resembled a heart, or a heart-shaped leaf, she would think of her dad.
Knowing how much she was heartened by her discoveries, she felt that she had something to offer to others. That’s when she began to make the snow hearts. This year, she has made 50 and 60 of the artistic creations. She has been know to do upwards of 15 in one day. Of course there has to be enough snow, and the right “packability.”
Her ephemeral snow hearts are a gift to Buffalo. That said, I was surprised when she told me that she was originally from New Jersey. Her mother has family connections in Buffalo, so upon moving here in 2020, Laura followed.
“I’ve been coming to Buffalo since I was born,” she told me. “We would visit 2 or three times a year for vacations. Up until my dad died, I was pretty much living in New Jersey, although I was traveling a lot, and staying in other cities. When I followed my mom to Buffalo, I ended up really liking being here. One day last winter I asked myself, ‘Why not make hearts for other people to find?’ It was pretty gloomy out, and I was feeling glum. Making the hearts cheered me up so much that I was actually sad when winter ended. Once the snow was gone, I chalked hearts on city sidewalks. This year, I was excited to see snow again – along with the hearts, I write the word love into the snow banks. I also sculpt tiny hearts and put them in the trees. This is my favorite thing to do, once the shoveling is done of course. Work before pleasure [laughing].”
When I asked Laura if she was an artist, she said, “I’m starting to accept myself as one. The last few years a lot of things have changed for me. I put so much effort into these hearts, and spend a lot of time on them. During the pandemic I was inspired to write a children’s book… my mother suggested that I put the hearts in the book. I always look for the love that’s around. I want to inspire other people with these creations. I made one for my neighbor yesterday, but the sun melted it and it fell over. I’m making one right now as we are on the phone. For me, it’s like a meditation. It’s snow art. I love the reactions when people see the hearts. They stop to thank me. The other day a man said, ‘I found the heartist!’ when he saw me making one.”
Coming from someone who is not an artist in any capacity, I am amazed at, and thankful for, Laura’s thoughtful gesture. “Let’s go build a snow heart together!” she exclaimed, upon learning of my lack of artistic ability. “I’ll teach you!”
I told Laura that I would join her on one of her heartistic adventures in the near future. Might there be a Part II to this heartfelt story? I certainly hope so.
Maybe this could be the start of a city-wide winter movement, led by Laura?
Photos by Laura, Tom Barnes, and Therese Forton Barnes