Posts Tagged ‘weather’


harvard yard snow blue sky

Here is another thing I did not know before I moved from Texas to Boston: Northeastern winters require constant calibration.

In west Texas, winter is short and fairly consistent: chilly and (mostly) dry, with occasional cutting winds that sweep down from Canada, whipping around the corners of buildings and rattling the bare branches of shrubs and trees. There is the occasional ice storm, and also the rare 60-degree day, mild and blue-skied with actual warmth emanating from the sun. But mostly, the days call for a single strategy: don a jacket, turn the furnace up a little, hang on until spring.

In the Northeast, winter comprises an entire spectrum of cold: crisp and dry; bone-chillingly damp; mild and warmed by a pale sun; dark and windy and wet. It requires an entire wardrobe of proper gear: coats, hats, boots, gloves. Especially if you have to get out in it every day (I do), it demands serious attention and adjustment.

I keep a close eye on the weather all year long: I am my parents’ daughter, the descendant of farmers who watched the sky for their livelihood. I am also an inveterate sky-watcher for the beauty, for the deep breath it always prompts me to take, and for the way it helps me feel the movement of the earth in my bones.

Once winter hits, though, my monitoring of the forecast becomes downright obsessive. And it’s amazing what a difference a few degrees, precipitation (or the lack of it), or wind (or the lack of it) can make.

Last week, we had our first true cold snap of this winter: 10 degrees with a windchill below zero Fahrenheit when I left the house on Tuesday morning. I’d checked my weather app and calibrated accordingly: fleece-lined tights, leather gloves, knee-length hooded down coat. By the time the highs crept back up into the 40s, later in the week, I could make do with a wool coat and ankle boots, since it wasn’t snowing. One afternoon, I even stole a few minutes in the sun on the steps of Memorial Church – before the wind started blowing, it felt downright (relatively) balmy.

katie memorial church green coat harvard yard

It can feel like a small triumph to shed a layer or wear a cute pair of shoes when the mercury rises just a few degrees. Similarly, it makes sense to keep a wool hat in my work bag all winter long, and check the forecast daily for snow or sleet. This week, we’ve had two dustings of snow – so it’s back to the down coat and snow boots. But I am quietly rejoicing that the sky is now cobalt, not indigo or pitch black, when I leave work in the afternoon.

We’re only a few weeks into winter (especially since December was shockingly mild). The memory of last winter is still sharp and vivid, and I’m hoping (possibly against all reason) for a less brutal time this year. But no matter what happens, I’ll be watching the forecast. And calibrating.

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astrid veronika lemonade stripes

What is it that makes us know when the summer turns? The smallest shift in the light? The slightest hint of chill in the morning air? A certain rustling of the leaves of the birches? That is how it is – suddenly, in the midst of the summer heat, you are overcome by a tightening of your heart. The realisation that it will all come to an end. And that brings a new intensity to everything: the colours, the smells, the feeling of sunshine on your arm. […]

Summer had turned. Although the weather remained sunny and warm, with each morning the air grew a touch crisper, the light a shade sharper, the evenings a notch darker.

Astrid & Veronika, Linda Olsson

I read Astrid & Veronika in late July, sitting in Harvard Yard with a cup of blueberry lemonade in hand. It’s a spare, lovely story about two women who become neighbors and help one another deal with deep grief. It is also about noticing the details, including the subtle shift in the seasons, the turning of summer toward fall.

The passage above leaped out at me when I read it, even though we were in the thick of summer, its full glorious green heat (and humidity). Now the calendar has flipped to September, and I’m noticing that seasonal shift – even though the weather is still summer-like.

Everyone I know – or their kids – seems to be heading back to school. (I work in higher ed and my circles of friends, both in Boston and Texas, include a lot of university students, professors and staff.) The blue of the sky is a little deeper, heading for that autumn blue I love so much. The sunsets are coming a little earlier, the sunrises a few minutes later. The light is sharpening a bit, the haze of summer gradually disappearing.

It has been a lovely summer and also a difficult one, in some ways. I am hoping for good things this fall, starting with a visit from my parents this week. And as I walk through these autumn days, I will do my best to pay attention, to notice the shifting light, the new coolness in the air, all the harbingers of my favorite season.

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unexpected quiet

Mid-February always spells crazy at my office. The third weekend in Feb. is what we call “Super Weekend” – Sing Song, the Board of Trustees meeting and a major campus visit (preview) day. Since we coordinate all publications, advertising and event programs for the university, we are all understandably a little stressed.

However, yesterday morning I woke up to this:

Snow! Big, fat, wet flakes that kept falling as my car crawled to campus over roads that were, to quote Caroline Bingley, “six inches deep in mud.” (Or slush.)

I taught my 8:00 class (and my students ALL turned in their papers), and when I left class, the Ad Building lawn was a fairyland:

We actually streamed the snow live from our front office window – and watched people driving by outside, and hoped no one got in a wreck. And about 11, we got word that we could go home at noon.

I went straight to United and bought ingredients for chili; then I went to Box Office Video and rented some Gilmore Girls and the newish Pride and Prejudice. And then I went home – for a cozy, blissful afternoon of tea, knitting, reading and good TV.

I love snow days. So much.

Happy Valentine’s Day weekend to you!

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hints of autumn

Autumn is playing with us here in Abilene. Usually she doesn’t show her face until at least October, maybe peeking in the window on a cool night or whispering in your ear with a morning breeze. Most years, we sweat and broil and moan our way through September. (And sometimes October too.)

But this year is different. Since we came back from Europe, the weather has been surprisingly mild, even chilly. I’ve been putting my pashmina scarves (I have, ahem, seven) to good use. I’ve been sitting on the front porch, barefoot and wearing jeans and a cardigan, reading and sipping tea while the rain plinks down. I’ve been dreaming of making pumpkin bread and buying fall-scented candles and brewing apple cider. And I’ve been wearing my boots for four days.

I have one tall, high-heeled black pair, buttoned down the sides, from Delia’s, and I’ve been rockin’ ’em with skirts and dresses, for that fun fall-ish chic. And I have another pair, calf-hugging brown suede flat ones, that I bought in Oxford and wore in Paris, and they’re keeping my legs warm today.

Autumn, darling, perhaps you are just flirting with all of us. But oh, it feels so nice – no matter if you steal away a few more times before coming back to stay.

(P.S. Thanks to everyone for the sweet birthday wishes. I had a gorgeous day and a lovely party – I love being 26, so far!)

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other words for rain

“[Alice] listens to the rain hammering on the roof of the tent. Chucking down; raining stair-rods. Presumably the Celts had their own colloquialisms for bad weather. She thinks about all the language that should hang in the air up here, centuries of it, the reverberations of a million exchanges about love and war, birth and death, and what to have for supper.”

~Penelope Lively, Making It Up

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