How’s the weather

Haze from Canadian wildfires

Yesterday the sky was milky white with haze from Canadian wildfires. It was, presumably, a partly cloudy day, as shadows appeared and disappeared, but all day long I never saw the sky, just a smudgy glow where the sun was supposed to be.

On the ground, yesterday’s sunlight shone with an orange tint. Today, the light was still brassy, but we could see patches of blue where overnight rains had started to wash the smoke from the sky.

These past few days, I’ve been sick with a summer cold: the first illness I’ve had since May, 2019. In typical fashion, this cold started in my throat, spread to my sinuses, then settled in my lungs.

Yesterday, the combination of cold, allergies, asthma, and smoky air made my chest ache. Today, my sinuses are still congested, but my lungs have started to clear. Nevertheless, when I played outside with one of our dogs today, I carried an inhaler in my pocket, just in case.

Spruce strobili

Today is an indecisive day: gray and drizzly in the morning, with the sun coming out intermittently while it continued to mist, as if the devil weren’t completely committed to beating his wife.

I intended to photograph the fiddleheads in our front yard, but they’ve already unfurled into gangly and awkward almost-ferns: no longer cute and curled, but not yet fully formed and fronded.

This is how Spring unfolds in New England. There is a brief moment in April when everything seems green and fresh, then by May the ground is cluttered with cast-off maple flowers and spent rhododendron blooms: the detritus of a party getting underfoot and underway.

Listening to one spring peeper singing

This past weekend, J and I walked at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, where we heard a single spring peeper singing. It was a lonely sound, but if one peeper is singing by day, there must be many more singing after dark.

Whenever I hear even one spring peeper, I think of May Sarton’s Plant Dreaming Deep. When Sarton first moved to New Hampshire, someone told her the winters are interminable there, but just when she’d give up all hope of Spring ever coming, she’d hear spring peepers. Hearing the peepers is a sign Spring would eventually arrive.

Yesterday was the first day of astronomical spring, and although there is no snow on the ground, the mornings are still cold. I haven’t worn sandals yet this year, but I will, eventually. I might doubt the arrival of that day, but the spring peepers know.

Splat snow

How can I describe today’s weather, with a nor’easter bringing overnight rain that is currently changing to snow?

First, I’ll note that most of our storms this year have brought more rain than snow, causing some locals to coin the term “pour’easter” to describe a winter storm that is more wet than snowy. Today’s storm was forecast as a traditional nor’easter bringing high winds and more than a foot of snow to Western parts of the state, but here in eastern Massachusetts, we’re experiencing a storm that is half pour and half nor: a pour-nor’easter?

Second, it’s just before 2:00 pm, and I’m wearing my third pair of pants, socks, and gloves of the day, having changed out of wet clothes after walking the dog in the morning and with J midday. I’ll probably have to change clothes again after getting home from an afternoon errand, it being a cold and drenching kind of day.

Third, while cleaning wet, sludgy snow from my car in advance of that aforementioned afternoon errand, I quietly coined a new term to describe pour-nor’easter precipitation: splat snow, based on the sound it makes when you brush it off your car and it lands as a clumpy puddle on the pavement below.

Soccer ball in sludgy snow

It is March 4th–March forth!–so that is exactly what Roxy and I did, walking this morning at the usual time despite the wintry slop outside.

Last night’s storm left a few dense and sludgy inches on both cars, which I cleaned off this morning: the rain will rinse the first round of snow away before round two arrives again this afternoon.

The streets were empty of other walkers–everyone else chose to stay inside or delay their dog-walks for later–but one blessed house had already cleared their corner-lot sidewalks, which were wet rather than slushy. I admit: I feel infinitely more kindly to those neighbors than to the ones who didn’t shovel at all after the previous storm. Yes, your pedestrian neighbors notice and remember if you shovel a path to your front door but not the span of sidewalk passing in front of your house.

The plows were out, clearing slush and sending up an impressive spray of winter wet in their wake. Since this isn’t my first winter walking, I had the foresight to cross to the other side when I saw a plow coming, and then I watched them circle back down the same street to spray a wide arc of salt.

It’s the kind of day when most folks would stay inside, and from the inside looking out, today looks miserable. But it’s not a bad day once you’re outside in it.

Sunny stairwell

Today is bright and brilliant: the sun between storms. Most of the wintry mess from this week’s storm has melted, and the ground is muddy in sunny spots and covered with a thin film of snow in the shade.

Sidewalks that were shoveled are bare and sun-baked; sidewalks where the snow was trampled by intrepid dog-walkers are crunchy underfoot, with a mottled surface of hard-pack and ice. In some spots, there are thin patches of snow lingering in the shadows of nearby trees: watch your step.

Another storm arrives tonight, bringing an unpredictable mix of snow, sleet, and rain. It’s another spin of the weather wheel: where it stops, nobody knows. Whatever soggy mess arrives overnight into tomorrow, we’ll slog through the slop then clean up after. Snow-turned-sleet-turned rain never lasts long in March: the sun is growing too strong to be denied.

Japanese maple leaf on snow

Every year, making it to March feels like a major accomplishment. March marks the end of Another Interminable February, and although this month’s weather is notoriously fickle–in like a lion, out like whatever the Weather Gods choose to throw at us–at least March is the month with Spring Break as its sweet center.

Yesterday’s snow day was largely a bust. Not much snow arrived Monday night into yesterday morning, so I should have had little problem driving through slush and flurries to teach yesterday’s 8:30 am class.

But FSU canceled yesterday’s classes on Monday night, when the forecast called for significant snow and the campus grounds crew wanted both faculty and students out of the parking lots so they could plow in peace. So I happily spent yesterday sipping tea and cuddling under blankets with Roxy–her favorite snow day activity–while reading student drafts on my laptop.

This morning is sunny, as it often is the day after snowstorms, even if those storms deliver more slush and rain than snow. The forecast calls for clouds this afternoon, when I’ll be in my windowless office then hunkered in the bunker of my basement classroom like a hibernating creature quietly dreaming of Spring.


Already we’re halfway through February, which feels miraculous given how the month normally drags. It’s been a gray day with intermittent drizzle, but no snow. Pitchers and catchers have reported to Spring Training, daffodil shoots are emerging in a neighbor’s garden, and the first snowdrops and crocuses of the year are already blooming from the bare ground.

This morning when I escorted Roxy to the dog-pen before her morning walk, we startled a nuthatch, downy woodpecker, and several chickadees. The neighborhood titmice and a lone Carolina wren were singing, and the scene felt like something out of Snow White, with birds fluttering and frolicking.

It almost feels like we don’t deserve the encouragement of an impending Spring given we haven’t had much of a winter. I tell myself that next year will make up for it, or next month.


After months of unseasonable warmth, today winter has arrived in earnest. The temperature has steadily dropped all day, from mid-20s this morning to teens in the afternoon and single digits now after dark. In summer, they say it’s not the heat that causes misery but the humidity, and in winter, it’s not the cold temperatures that get you, but the wind.

When I walked Roxy this afternoon, the wind sliced right through my Big Puffy Coat, and now as I type these words with a blanket over my lap, I can hear the wind gusting outside. Today’s wind hasn’t been as strong or fierce as some of the tropical storms and nor’easters we’ve weathered, but it is unsettling in its own right: a wind that comes stealthily, without rain, snow, or ice, just wind.

The forecast says the wind chill will plunge well below zero overnight, and tomorrow will be as brutally cold as today. On Sunday, however, the temperature will spike into the 40s, where it will remain for the rest of the week: an unseasonable winter punctuated by two days of ill wind.

Wintry mix

It continues to be an unusually warm, rainy winter. On Monday, we got several inches of dense, sludgy snow: the first time J has used the snow-blower all season. By Tuesday, the snow had melted, and now we’re in a pattern where we get a slick coating of sleet, snow, or slush overnight that disappears by mid-morning.

Wintry mix is the term New Englanders use for mixed precipitation: a messy combination of snow, sleet, and freezing rain. Given this week’s warm temperatures, the weather has been heavy on “mix” and light on “wintry.”

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