Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label weather. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Quicksilver Month

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 203:


Anything mercurial is characterized by the rapid or unpredictable changeableness of one's mood.  It also might mean something is more directly related to the element, the planet, or the mythological messenger god.  Sometimes all of these at once.  The general adjective and the element are no doubt named for the god Mercury's ability to change places so quickly.  The element was once called quicksilver, because it looks like moving, living, moody silver. 

Quicksilver by Keith Moseley at flickr

Mercurial seems to best describe April 2013, half-spent as it is.  Living in the middle of the continent, we've seen March and April change their moods frequently from calm, halcyon days to blustry wintry ones.  Snow and rain have been competing for territory this week, leaving us in a state of jaded confusion: I thought we were done with winter!  Look, there are flowers!  It shouldn't be snowing when there are flowers!  What is wrong with this world?  Global warming!  Well, I say.  At least it's wet.  Perhaps we've finally begun to turn this neverending drought around.

I'm not a climatologist, and this is not a science blog, although I can say our fears about weather, climate and our inability to properly harness them make for great science fiction.  Spring has a temper in general: it has good days and bad days: the lion and the lamb; blizzards, tornadoes and thunderstorms; sunshine, daffodils and birdsong.  This month is absolutely and indeniably alive.  I'm sure February is mighty jealous.  And May will be especially glorious when all calms down!

Mercury Bronze 1570 van der Schardt 4
Mercury by Mary Harrsch

Monday, April 8, 2013


Adventures in Logophilia, Day 197:


Virga is a mass of streaks, wisps or stripes of rain appearing to hang underneath a cloud, but evaporating before reaching the ground.  This is the Latin word for "rod" or "stripe."  While out and about yesterday, I saw many a virga looming overhead, an eerie, ghostly premonition of the thunderstorms that would arrive later in the night.  Weather, in case you couldn't tell, fascinates me in its changeability - the mood swings of the region, the continent and the world.  There is still so little we know about the workings of the atmosphere; imagination will always fill in the gaps of our knowledge.

Virgas by Francois Roche

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Whale Song on the Plains

Stories come from the strangest of combination of places, events and people.  They hit me over the head sometimes as I'm walking - often times quite actually because my head is usual off pondering in the clouds.  This is a wild circle of thought that occurred to me this week:

Tornado Sirens

It is early spring and they've begun testing the tornado sirens in our city, as they do most places with a tornado warning system.  The siren blares out in thick waves of sound - not merely loud but inescapable.  This is sound you can feel rattling the pavement beneath your feet, shaking your ribcage, startling the air, stopping your heart.  You are breathing in that sound.  Unlike the eardrum-cracking call of ambulances and police cruisers, it does not fade away as trouble races down the center lane.  Growing up in Nebraska, this is typical of the spring and summer months - the worry that sudden disaster may be hurtling nearby. 

Nebraska Tornado
by Anthony Woods

Sirens and Whales

When I was a little girl standing my grandparents' driveway  I remember asking my mother what that horrible drone was.  She said it was a whale, perhaps out of sarcasm.  (She might have actually said "dying whale" but I doubt she would have been that mean.)  I was a gullible imaginative child and wanted to see this whale, marvelling at the idea there was an actual whale somewhere in our landlocked state.  As we drove home, I had a vivid picture in my head of a whale lying out on the plains somewhere... not exactly making the connection that if, by some strange set of events, a whale was lying out in the middle of Nebraska, it would be a very sad story.

Whale Fluke 6 October 2012, Gloucester, Mass.


Whales in Nebraska

The closest whales have come to Nebraska was the in the Cretaceous Period when a great north-south swath of the continent was a shallow sea called the Western Interior Seaway, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic.  The "whales" were plesiosaurs (probably smaller than modern whales) - head of a brontosaurus and sea turtle flippers. 

By Dee Jay Morris

A Sea in Nebraska

Then it strikes me that Nebraska geology and paleontology is rich.  We had a sea!  We were underwater!  Okay, "we" weren't but the land that became our state (and Kansas, South and North Dakota, Minnesota and Texas) was underwater.  Comparing that reality to our current drought, the heat, the snow storms, the farmland, the ranches, the bison herds, the sand dunes... wow!  This storyteller is struck by the malleability of the earth beneath our feet, the fact that some day Nebraska may not look like it does now.  I don't know what the projections indicate for our geologic future, but if the Rockies continue to grow, so might our Plains.  This might become a desert or a marshland.  Someday Nebraska may have native camels (yes, camels) or saber-toothed cats (the descendents of our urban ferals?), bear dogs or a new breed of bison.  Or will there be a sea big enough for humpbacks and dolphins to swim down to greet us?

The Golden Sea
by Petter Sandell

And there will probably be tornadoes spilling across whatever version of the Plains comes to pass.  Will the whales warn us with their song? 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Blackthorn Winter

Adventures in Logophilia, Day 180:

blackthorn winter

Generally, a blackthorn winter is a spell of cold weather at the time of early spring when the blackthorn trees are in bloom.  Though it is not officially spring, we are right on the cusp.  March is that odd time of year when anything can happen with the weather.  Yesterday, temperatures climbed to 60 degrees and I took a breezy walk in the sunshine.  It was warm enough that I had to take off my sweater.  Spring was definitely in the air.  Then, this morning I woke up to discover a world transformed from muddy, nascent spring to blustery, white winter.  The robins seem mightily confused.  But this is a good omen, methinks, for a wet spring and a greener summer to follow.

Crocus in the Snow
snow crocus by corbeau du nord

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 36: St. Luke's Summer (Jillian)

Today's word/phrase is...

Saint Luke's summer

According to Oxford Dictionaries, Saint Luke's summer (a British term) is a period of fine weather around the 18th of October, which is Saint Luke's feast day.  I honestly don't remember how I came across this phrase, but it fascinates me... an older version of what we'd call "Indian summer."  Especially in England and Europe where the days of the year were marked by saints' days and sundry feasts, this makes particular sense.  It puts a new spin on the word lukewarm, as well. 

It makes for an interesting metaphor - a little pocket of summer come to rest inside another season.  For the last several days we've had a glorious St. Luke's summer: the leaves are golden, red, orange and purple, beautiful autumn, and yet temperatures climbed into the 80s.  It was summer.  I tend to enjoy these bizarre weather-fronts: the odd January days that reach the 60s or 70s and melt a month's worth of snow; the chilly, blustery fronts in July when we suddenly wonder where the oven of summer has gone.  They're rogue summers and winters - visiting out of season but welcome guests nonetheless.  I don't think it's as significant as climate change, but weather-change and weather-mood. 

There is another version of Saint Luke's summer which is Saint Martin's summer, basically nice, warm weather around the 11th of November, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. 


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