Saturday, January 31, 2015


Northwestern Ohio, where I used to live, is expecting several inches of snow today.
Coastal Maine has a couple of feet, with more on the way.
Chicago is about to get slammed, and the National Weather Service advises travelers to keep food in the car, a flashlight.
Here in Missouri, it’s been mild—sweater weather, sun, some wind.
I’m tired of mild. It exhausts me, day in and day out. Nothing fills me with wanderlust like glimpses of weather elsewhere. Right now in the world, frigid seawater slams into a rocky coast, and snow drives into it, gets folded in, even as it accumulates on the beach.
I was in Hawaii once, and it rained for a few minutes every day, and every day, after, there were rainbows.
Missouri is a little gray today. You’ll want sleeves, and socks with your shoes.
For some people, wanderlust is a desire to see attractions. I just want to see the weather, and the way people react to it. The other night I talked to my mom in Florida, and she was marveling at the local reaction to a dip in temperature—lows in the forties. I like it that temperatures that make a Floridian reach for a parka would make a Minnesotan don shorts.
It is possible to die of weather, of course—that is clear here, in tornado alley, where the sky turns green and drops random hell down on city or field. But today I feel like it may be possible to die of gray—of bare trees and empty stalks of last summer’s flowers.
Once in Ohio, my husband and I walked out into a winter field. It retained the furrows from the plow, and we each chose a groove and stayed in it, a corner of the sky still blue but clouds massing in the west. We walked long enough that the house we lived in was small behind us, and we were almost to the railroad track that limned the back of the field. Then the snow came—a sudden blanketing of it. We couldn’t see in front of us, couldn’t even see each other. We clasped our ungloved hands together and hurried back along our furrows, thankful for the straight and true plow and the memory of that vector pointing home. We put our heads down and just moved, and ultimately we made it back to our blue house. We were safe.
And now I am far from that place, on my couch, the TV humming beside me. I am unlikely to remember anything about this day. Safety is a given. Gray is the tone.
Shortly after I graduated from college, I moved to Montana on a lark. It was the best decision of my life. Everything I owned fit into my car, and my mom supplemented what I had—books, pillows, the goofy personal ornaments I thought a young woman required—with wool socks, dickies, a good coat. It was summer at the time, and nothing could have seemed so superfluous.
I think it’s possible that I get my very specific sort of wanderlust from her. She wasn’t thinking of cowboy bars and grizzly bears and poetry. She was thinking of weather—of the big sky and what comes from it, and of the way snow piles up between mountains, like those furrows I walked through and the way they started to fill and disappear before I’d made it safely home.
I understand the danger weather brings. I know that you can pick a bare spot on the lawn and move arms and legs in unison to make a snow angel, but I know, too, that some snow angels happen by terrible accident—you lose sight of home, and the muscles of your legs forget how to put forth one more step.
Cherrapunji, India, has the world’s heaviest average rainfall, with 430 inches per year. Right near me, though, Holt, Missouri, once had a foot of rainfall in an hour—a rumbling firestorm of an hour, thunder and lightning offering no sign of quitting. That’s the astonishing thing about weather. It happens everywhere. Sit still and you’ll get your turn.

But at this very moment, ice coats the houses of coastal Cape Cod, and the cars in those narrow Colonial roadways are buried beneath snow, and I can’t help myself—I want to see it.


  1. Weather forms us, doesn't it? Here in almost-always-sunny Tucson, it has rained steadily for a couple of days and Mother Earth does not know what to do with all of it. I can see and hear the wash (normally dry) rushing down from the mountains. It's pretty exciting--and yet reassuring to know that, come Monday, it'll be sunny and 70.

    1. You're right about that! Sounds lovely where you are. If one must endure sameness, a beautiful sameness is preferable!

  2. My mother- in-law wants to see the ocean during a hurricane.