Weather-Watching

I live in a community of weather-watchers.

Before the sun stirs and its pale light peers over the trees, they watch. After the barn owl swallows the skin and bones of her midnight meal, they worry. When a trip to town leads to meeting a fellow weather-watcher, they talk. They watch and they worry and they talk about the rain or the heat or the cold. They watch, worry, and talk because they must plan.

Their plans have four parts- one for each season of the year. The minutiae of the weeks and the days are filled in as they come, of course, but there always arises an inscrutable problem. A butterfly flaps his wings in a far-off country and the reverberations shake a chunk of ice loose from an arctic glacier. Then, a storm smashes into the Canadian coast until slow-moving rain clouds swing south. Such is the delicately complex spectacle known as the weather, and with a bone-deep intensity these weather-watchers want to look behind the impenetrable curtain.

A few seasons ago a grey-haired weather-watcher sat in his square-bodied pickup while a field flooded. He had bought the field around the time the American flag touched the moon, and after a decade it helped him buy another. Ninety-nine acres, once the site of sleepy sowing and sweaty reaping, transformed into a swamp. It was a loss that meant more losses. Professional weather-watchers, with half-hidden grins, declared the three-day event to be a “thousand-year flood,” thinking themselves lucky to study such a piece of meteorological history, when a stalled frontal boundary met waves of moist air. The grey-haired weather-watcher, with a half-hidden smile, sat with his wife and pondered the mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

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