To the Window

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to pay closer attention to the weather.  Not the climate, the weather and not for professional or environmental or scientific reasons, but for the pleasure of it, for the purpose of rooting myself in this particular place I’ve chosen as my home.

I’ve paid enough attention to the weather in past years to know it changes every day and not in the obvious way: one day cloudy and the next clear.  I mean that by looking at a photo, I might see clues that tell me it was taken in northwestern Vermont in the second month of winter, rather than the first or third.

This is easy enough in the other three seasons of the year, merely by looking at the state of vegetation (although I still have much to learn then, too), but winter is more subtle and thus, more rewarding to the patient observer.  The quality, quantity and location of the snow most immediately present to the eye, but these metrics grow more unreliable each year.  (Alas, this is where climate and my professional life intrude.)

There’s a dusting of snow on the ground now and more in the air, each flake taking its time with the final forty feet of its journey.  There’s no wind to speak of – the bare branches of the trees do not move – but flakes dance on microcurrents of air pushing past the corners of the house.

Here are three things I’ve written in this space before – 1) the old Vermont weather adage holds that “as the days grow longer, the cold grows stronger,” 2) northwestern Vermont is most likely (but not exclusively) to see sub-zero weather between New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day and 3) if we don’t have a week or ten days of sub-zero weather, I don’t feel as if we’ve had a winter, just as if we don’t have a week or ten days of 90-degree-plus weather, I don’t feel as if we’ve had a summer.

As to the first point, the cold has grown stronger this week and Tuesday we flirted with point two, but the drop in temperature halted at one degree.  As for point three, it’s not just me that needs the deep cold of winter and here my professional life intrudes again.  Without the deep cold of winter, any number of harmful, invasive insects survive the winter and attack our forests more savagely than they would had their numbers been decimated by sub-zero days.

Our neighbor Margaret gave us a new bird feeder for Christmas, one that affixes to the window with suction cups.  We’ve had no squirrel-proof place to hang the old feeder since the sugar maple died.  So far, Chickadees have been the only customers, but with the lack of snow, I imagine there are easier pickings out there.

It’s 23 degrees now; perfect temperature for a snowfall and it’s coming down faster, no more dancing.  The thermometer is predicted to creep to the high thirties on Saturday, melting whatever falls today and tomorrow.  Burlington’s in the tropics of Vermont, only 100 feet above sea level.  They’ve been making snow on the mountains every cold night since October.  All that’s required for that is sub-freezing temperatures and a wet summer to recharge groundwater and holding ponds; that has not been a problem lately.

What is a problem for the ski areas, and tourism is the biggest economic driver in Vermont, is that the skiers don’t really show up in droves unless snow falls in Boston and New York City.  I suppose that’s a symptom of a different kind of weather-watching and I doubt it’s good for the economy, as the ski areas tend to make half their season’s income by New Year’s Eve.  If that’s true this year, then 2012 will be dreary indeed.

Now I’ve digressed into both climate and economics, when I should be staring out the window, looking for my muse among the snowflakes.  Like any resolution, the point is not to give up the first time I fail to hit the mark, but to try again and improve my average.

So to the window, then.

© Mark Floegel, 2012

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *