As I write this, a norther is tumbling its way down the continent from the arctic.
But right now it is early in the morning, way before daylight. The other living things in this house – one wife and two cats – are fast asleep and the only sounds in the place are the tapping I’m doing on the keyboard of my laptop and the ticking of the little clock on the desk in my study.
Outside my windows it is dark and humid and still. And that big cold front is making its way toward all of us – house and wife and cats and yours truly – as surely as a fast train on a beeline for a depot.
I’m a weather junkie. I’ll confess that right up front. There’s not much more impressive and beautiful, to me, than a wide, gunmetal gray sky full of a dark and brooding thunderstorm. The low clouds so full of their cargo that it seems impossible that they can stay aloft. The air rich with the heady promise of rain.
And a windy day – a real Winnie the Pooh blustery day – calls me out into it every time. A day when trees dance briskly in a stiff headwind and fields of tall grass roll and sway like the choppy surface of an agitated lake. A day like that is perfection personified. It is, as C. S. Lewis might have said, red meat and strong beer.
This fascination with meteorological events has worked its way into all of my books. My memoir about my father and his Alzheimer’s experience commences in Oakwood, the little town we lived in, covered in snow one Christmas Eve Eve a long time ago. Then I set an historical novel in the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Three books later – each of them sprinkled liberally with rain, wind, or snow – I started my latest yarn with a little boy waiting for the first blue norther of the season with his old grandfather during World War II. The two of them go out into the yard to meet it, reach up and touch it, and even imagine they can smell what it brings with it: scents of pine and fir from the Dakotas, and sweet corn and musty wheat from Kansas.
I called that novel Touching Winter. And that’s what I intend to do – if its arrival cooperates with my sleep patterns – that big fellow finally gets here.
Now, some people might conclude that I’m mighty odd in this regard. But I like to think that I’m – along with my wife, who is also a weather junkie – just a little better off than people who can’t manage to see turbulent weather as anything more than an inconvenience.
A few times I took my Creative Writing III class outside when it happened when our class was meeting. Because I couldn’t come up with a better lesson for people wanting to be writers than to put them in the presence of something bigger than all of us. Something so compelling that, try as mankind might, we can’t stop it. Or even slow it down. All we can do when facing something like that is either get out of its way or stand in awe of it.
Everything comes at a cost, of course, and society can fall out of balance as quickly as nature does. Lots of unfortunate folks will have to scramble for shelter tomorrow. And my heart goes out to them.
But, this early morning, as that big norther bears heavily down, I’m looking forward to its arrival. To its looming appearance on the northern horizon as it announces, with confident authority, that things will change now.
It’s comforting to know – in a world that is usually altogether too confusing and hectic – that there are some things that I’m not expected to have any control over whatsoever. That’s probably why I love the weather so much.
Today’s paper just plopped into the yard outside my windows. A hundred or so miles to the north, a massive giant is galloping in this direction.
And I can’t wait.
[Originally published as a column in some yesteryear]