Meteorological terms

For Christmas, A (not her real initial) got me a weather observer’s notebook. A knows I love both nature and notebooks, so something that combines those two loves is a perfect present. And because I can’t let a blank notebook go unfilled, I’ve been trying since the New Year to write a short description of the weather after each day’s dog-walk, along with an account of birds I saw.

Kinds of clouds

Writing about the weather is nothing new for me: meteorological conditions are a frequent theme in both my blog and handwritten journal. Weather is, after all, both ephemeral and omnipresent, so if you have nothing to write about on a given day, you can always describe what’s going on outside. But having an entire, separate notebook devoted to The Weather is something new. It’s one thing to describe the quality of light falling upon your journal page and another to chronicle each day’s temperature and precipitation.


So far this year, we’ve had weird weather: we’ve fluctuated between warm, cold, and wet without any snow (currently) on the ground. Today has alternated between rain and drizzle, the sky a monochrome shade of gray; earlier in the week, we had partly cloudy days that were glaring-bright with the harsh, low-angled light of winter. Tomorrow and Monday are supposed to be dry and partly cloudy; on Tuesday, we’re expecting either rain, snow, or both.

Writing the weather

I don’t know how long into the New Year I’ll remain faithful to this new habit of writing down the weather: once I’m back to teaching, I’ll have much less time to write, and even less time to maintain multiple notebooks. But for now, it’s been fun to chronicle each day’s meteorological mood swings, New England’s ever-changing weather inevitably giving me something to write about.

A spot of spring

It’s a red-letter day when you see green grass in February. Although most Newton yards are still covered in at least a foot of snow, on this morning’s 40-degree dogwalk I spotted one south-facing slope that sported a patch of bare earth like a tonsure.

The forecast calls for a return to freezing temperatures tonight and tomorrow, but even a spot of almost-spring renews flagging hope in the sandal-starved. Every year, we weather a brief spell of above-freezing bliss that stays just long enough to whet our seasonal ambitions and encourage colds in those who dress too hopefully. Once we’ve bared our boot-entombed ankles and stretched out our necks in long-sleeved T-shirts, the snow and cold will return to remind us that it’s not spring yet. Eventually, yes. Now, no.

Almost-spring is a perfect lesson in present mindedness. Tonight and tomorrow, today’s snow-melt will freeze, but right now, the air smells musty with mud and wet dog. Even our backyard Gorby is delighted to be bareheaded within his blanket of snow.


The Abominable Snow-Dog!

When I say that neither snow nor rain stops intrepid dog-walkers, I mean it. The above image shows Reggie in his guise as the Abominable Snow-Dog on this morning’s walk, and this image shows the tell-tale hat and ponytail of the Abominable Snow-Dog-Walker.

Snow-hat with ponytail

Obviously I can’t shoot photos of the back of my own head, so thanks to J for snapping that second photo.

Gorby emerging

Although it’s been bitterly cold this week, with temperatures well below freezing, the sun has been blindingly brilliant. Day after day in my journal, I’ve marveled at how the sky has been crystal-clear and cloudless and the sun blazingly bright: how can a day look white-hot when actually the temperature is in the single digits?

Icicles, with Obama window signs

Despite the frigid temperatures, the snow is shrinking, subliming into air that is bone-dry with chill. In the morning, I slather lotion on my legs, which immediately soak it up; the second I go outside, I can feel the air sucking moisture from my skin. Winter is the closest we get to desert here in the northeast: windblown snow stings just like sand, and like Bedouins we shroud our faces in scarves and other protective headdresses. Even the shortest dog-walk feels like an Arctic expedition in weather like this: you bundle up before you go, and you unwrap yourself like a present when you return. Identities in winter are accumulative: these days, “I” exist in layers duly donned, then shed, then re-acquired. Who would I be, in January, without my coat, hat, or gloves?


Turquoise-blue skies and crystal-clear days are perfect for photography, but snapping photos means stopping and peeling off a glove, and those are the last two things I want to do on single-digit days: the secret to dog-walking on frigid days is to keep moving. I find myself growing blind to the beauties of snow, which lies strewn and heaped like last week’s laundry: what seemed so lovely and picturesque in early December has outgrown its welcome by mid-January. Lines of icicles that once gleamed gem-like now threaten like razor-sharp incisors, a reminder (as if we needed one) that winter bites.

You can compare today’s lead photo of Gorby emerging from his snow-blanket to that of Gorby almost-buried a week ago. We’re supposed to get more snow tomorrow, which means temperatures will rise into double-digits and Gorby will be re-blanketed.

Snowy table, 2008

This morning in Newton, I had to snap the requisite backyard shot to show how much snow we got in last night’s storm: 11 inches as of this morning, and another couple of inches since. It continued to snow throughout the day, and our next storm is forecast to begin tomorrow morning, bringing more wet snow and freezing rain to top our tables.

More than anything, I wanted to share this morning’s backyard snow shot to compare it to the almost identical one I shot this time last year: the lawn furniture is new, but the snowy scene is pretty much the same. Although I haven’t yet gotten a chance to take many shots of this year’s snowfall, the images I shot last year look eerily familiar. Can you say “same as it ever was“?

Alien eyes

It was brutally cold and windy when I walked Reggie this morning, with a temperature in the low-20s and a wind-chill of 10 degrees. Only last week, temperatures were in the almost tropical 50s, so my body feels dazed and disoriented, having lost an entire season over the course of a weekend. What happened to autumn?

Alien eyes

It was brutally cold and windy when I walked Reggie this morning, and the glowing window reflections I call alien eyes were out in full force: a coincidence? Might an overnight invasion of extraterrestrials explain a sudden shift of weather, ET and his buddies tampering with the time/space continuum so we went, meteorologically speaking, from mid-November to early January in the blink of an (alien) eye?

There’s definitely something odd afoot in Keene, where temperatures have plummeted and the alien eyes, no longer content to hang out on walls, are starting to take to the streets. Take me to your heater!

Alien eyes

Which way the wind is blowing

January isn’t the only month that is two-faced. After regaling us with weeks of warm, crystal-bright days, November showed her teeth this weekend as the weather turned cold and windy. A lazy wind doesn’t take the time to blow around you; instead, it blows right through you. This weekend’s winds were a foretaste of a lazy season to come.


On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I teach at 8:00, so instead of letting Reggie out to sniff the accumulated piles of snow in my yard and driveway, I take him for a quick walk: around the block and back, far enough for Reggie to sniff and pee and for me to snap a few pictures before coming back to prepare for class. This morning, the eastern horizon was capped with pink, trout-speckled clouds: sunrise.


On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I get home from teaching around 4:00, so instead of letting Reggie out to sniff the accumulated piles of snow in my yard and driveway, I take him for a somewhat longer walk: to downtown and back, far enough for more sniffing, peeing, and photo-snapping. This afternoon, the sky opened to release a confetti-drop of quickly accumulating white: snowfall.

As I type this, I’m tucked inside for the night and the sky is spitting a sizzle of wintry mix on my window panes: the last I checked, my car was nestled in four to six inches of new, wet snow. Tomorrow morning, after Reggie and I get back from our Wednesday morning walk downtown and back, I’ll dig out my car while Reggie sniffs the newly accumulated snow piles, then I’ll spend the day doing grading, laundry, and teaching prep: another February dawn-to-dusk in New England.