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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Weather and the Mystery of What's to Come*

*Somerset Daily American
September 25, 2010
as "One For the Muse of the Changing Seasons"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey

Weather is the perfect conversation starter. It is without a doubt the most commonly shared element of human existence. And it doesn’t matter from where you come from, or the state of your finances, you can always talk about the weather.

Last summer, the topic was mainly about wondering when summer was going to start. This summer, we’re wondering when it’s going to finally end. There were several days in August when I wished that I could tell summer, “All right. You made your point. Now move along.” And last winter, (except for the Steelers and the Penguins) the weather was about all we ever did talk about.

There are usually three parts to that conversation:
1. What it’s like today
2. What it was like yesterday
3. What’s tomorrow going to be like?

One of the things we always try to do is outguess the forecast, usually by identifying the current trend as a precursor (or omen) of what’s to come. Thoughts of chest-deep snow and bitter cold were far, far away this summer as we staggered through the unusual heat and humidity. It was almost like we were afraid to bring it up for fear of jinxing the upcoming winter.

I’ve heard folks state with folksy certainty that a hot summer means a cold, snowy winter. And yet, these same folks were telling me last summer that because June, July, and August were so mild, the winter was going to mild. The most reliable estimate came, not from traditional lore or climate models, but from the fur on wooly-worms, which was unusually heavy and dark last year. I had another fellow tell me (with appropriate solemnity) that he’d never seen beaver lodges as thick and heavily-built as they were prior to last winter.

Truth is, nobody really knows. There just isn’t a seasonal go-by that could be used to predict the future with any accuracy. Even the signs in nature can be purely subjective and contradictory. And that’s a shame. One of the things we’d like to be able to do is to predict the future. Reliable expectations provide us with a sense of stability. And even though we can’t control the weather, knowing in advance what will happen does provide one with a sense of calm. Even when a blizzard is expected, having the time to prepare helps tremendously.

I remember last February when the first blizzard hit the Laurel Highlands. Thanks to experts like Jim, Tony, and Tim, we had plenty of warning. And that night when the snow was pouring out of the sky, I could look to cupboards full of non-perishable food, a big stack of firewood in the garage, and a backup heat source and feel ready for the worst the storm could deliver. That feeling of comfort lasted until the next morning when I opened the front door to let Tweeter out and beheld a head-high pile of drifted snow all the way to the street. Tweeter, for his part, looked at the snow, and then looked at me as if to ask, “How am I supposed to do this?” I looked at the shovel, my back already hurting in anticipation.

But that’s to be expected. Nothing deflates the romance of snow like having to shovel it.

I’m already wondering about fall, and how this summer’s weather will affect the leaf colors. Fall is my favorite time of year, and I’ve come to expect a full-blown Technicolor display beginning about mid-October. But like expectations of winter, I guess I’ll have to take the traditional and time-tested approach to meteorological prognostication.

Just sit back, relax, and wait to see what happens.

After all, spontaneity is the spice of life
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