“The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.” Jimmy Buffett
Let’s talk about the weather. That sounds simple enough. Except with Gail and Suzanne, it’s not that simple, not just a casual conversation starter. Weather is serious business for them, at least, certain kinds.
I posted previously that both Gail and Suzanne love the wind. I loathe the wind. Call them crazy. Go ahead—I did. The wind makes me want to pack up and leave my home state; my home. My husband threatens to challenge them to carry a large sheet of plywood or a roof panel in the wind. Then tell us how much you love the wind. He does love my sisters, but on windy days, that love is challenged.
There was a time in our younger lives when our family’s livelihood—not our lives, though—depended upon the weather. Growing up on a farm, we realized that Mother Nature heavily dictated our family’s annual bounty—or relative lack thereof.
Now, it is a factor that is considered heavily for our quality of life, no longer our livelihood.
It can still dictate the livelihoods of our two farming brothers. Droughts, floods, high winds, hail and tornadoes can, and sometimes do decimate a crop. Their day-to-day operations are dictated by the weather as well.
Our brother David makes his living in the air, and is responsible for his, and 100-plus souls. As the captain, he has to decide if the weather should let them go up, keep them up, stay on the ground or go around it after going up.
His son Nick is a newly minted atmospheric scientist. It didn’t surprise any of us that he took after his dad in his vigilant watch on the weather.
We are proud to claim a resident meteorologist in our family.
Other than exercising extra caution while driving, the weather really doesn’t affect the livelihoods of the girls of The Sister Lode. Sometimes, like in the last few weeks however, I had a blessed, glorious Snow Day. I am not willing to drive from my rural home–typically 30-plus miles–when the conditions are dangerous. My work is not that important.
You would think the weather determines Gail and Suzanne’s lives, livelihoods, happiness, and general existence. They are a little over the top in their love for certain conditions that most of us find unfavorable.
Perhaps it was Gail’s initiation into this world, those first six weeks I mentioned in last week’s post that were spent snowed in with Mom, Dad and our oldest brother. Perhaps that is why she so loves snowstorms now.
To her heart’s delight, she got a good one last weekend. The one that kept her from joining Suzanne and me for Mom’s birthday shopping trip.
Suzanne loves storms in general, and speaks of her disappointment when the weather forecast for strong storms doesn’t deliver. I must add I feel that too. I do love a good thunderstorm.
Gail fondly refers to strong winds and/or tornadoes as “wind events.” A local friend lost several structures to a tornado, and she coined that term. Gail latched on to it.
If you know Gail, you won’t be surprised by her contribution here—and I quote:
“There is nothing you can do to change it outside of moving, so embrace it. And I would like to add ‘quit your bitching.’ There are a lot of things worse than the weather. Be glad you have sight to see and ears to hear the weather.”
If you don’t know Gail, let’s just say you usually know how she feels about an issue. And that’s all good. I look up to her for many reasons; her ability to express herself assertively is one of them.
Suzanne, in her trademark short-and-sweet style gives this simple advice:
“Get over it.”
I proposed this question to both of them: “If you had to live with one set of weather conditions every day for the rest of your life, what would they be?”
Suzanne: “Eighty degrees, cloudy, windy. You can’t get it windy enough for me. No sun. I’m kind of like a vampire.”
Gail: “Eighty-five degrees, hot, full sun, heavy breeze. You can interpret heavy breeze however you like.” Keep in mind she loves wind. As a matter of fact, she thinks the term gale force winds should be changed to Gail force winds.
And from me: One hundred degrees, full sun, and a light breeze.
Call me crazy. I know you want to. But you have to call them crazy as well.
I must add that on the most windy of our windy days, I want to give it all up and move away. It has the opposite effect on me. I simply hate the wind. I have realized I must simply let them have their love of the wind, no matter how much I hate it. I struggle as I write and that’s okay.
Twenty degrees. Sunshine. No wind. These are my favorite weather conditions for my morning run. Such were the conditions this morning when I conceived the idea for this post. I realized how good I feel not only when I run, but how much the weather affects its quality. I also feel my mind running, reeling, loosed in a field of possibilities for words on paper. When I get home, I often jot down a few ideas that came to me because I know from experience if I don’t, they will be gone. Sometimes it is an exact string of words, a complete sentence that I must dictate repeatedly to myself as I run home in order to preserve it. Sometimes, it is simply a vague idea. Today, it was this idea.
On Monday, Mom’s birthday, I ran into blinding snow for a few minutes. I knew I would round a curve soon behind the trees and have the snow blowing at my side instead of in my face. I knew I would be fine for a bit if I sucked it up and let it hit me, so I did. I have done it before.
If there’s no ice, and it’s above ten degrees, I try to get out to run. Preferably with the wind at my side or my back. I needed this run today, more than most days.
I missed Mom more that day. I wanted her here to celebrate with me, even though I knew in my heart of hearts that she was much happier where she was now, and probably wouldn’t come back, even if she could. I had a great day with Suzanne on our shopping trip for her the day before. We had a great three-way speaker-phone call with Gail on the way home. We had been through this day eight times without her already. Still, I wanted her here.
I finished my run; the snow relenting to a flurry. I was glad to get out and run through these blues in the gray weather. I felt better, but the weather stayed gray. I wanted blue skies, but gray they stayed.
So I stayed a little gray too.
I am solar-powered. I have come to realize this, and I am trying to make peace with it on the cold and overwhelmingly gray January days like Monday. Mercifully, they typically relent quickly, and within a few days, I can tolerate the January weather once again. Just three days after those gray skies prevailed after the mini-blizzard, we tied our record high in my small city at 67 degrees.
On our way home from our shopping trip last Sunday—at 57 degrees, we saw one of these:
Suzanne and I, having recently been there and longing to go back, know the weather there.
At that moment, the blizzard was raging at Gail’s house.
“Imagine you are the people in that car from Florida,” Suzanne said, “and you keep driving a few more hours west, and you go from this to a blizzard.”
Such is our bipolar Kansas weather.
The best birthday gift I get every year in April is from Mother Nature, who typically has the trees hung with green, and a bed of fresh, green grass laid just in time. She has only forgotten my birthday a few times, and the gift shows up a little late.
I love green, which is why I keep it alive in my home year round:
I learned this from Mom and Gail. I remember a house full of plants as I grew up, and Gail always had her home green inside too, ever since I can remember. She still does.
Gail bequeathed this behemoth plant to me after she closed her donut shop. She didn’t have space for it in her house. It seems to like it by my window.
The dull, lifeless brown outside is made slightly more bearable by houseplants. Suzanne claims no talent at keeping plants alive indoors, so she doesn’t try.
The recent weather has me thinking about my absolute favorite weather. Prior to this last blast, I had decided I loved the frigid cold. As I age, I realize I like the extremes more. Extremes like zero degrees. At least, I thought I did.
Who was I kidding.
I have never wavered on the other extreme. 100 degrees is still my favorite. I would take it any day, and the zero temps had me longing for it.
My husband Mark told me the story of a spring/summer building project he supervised for a government agency a few years ago. It was managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the engineer for this project was from Maryland. When it became windy, this engineer produced his anemometer, a tool for measuring wind speed in MPH. According to his interpretation, any wind speed past 22 MPH was ruled too fast for safety, and the project would have to wait until the wind receded. Any equipment that was in the air—such as a telescoping lift—could not be used. Mark quickly showed him the government-issued OSHA regulations posted right on the lift that allowed use with wind speeds up to 40 MPH. Further, in the most functional illustration, Mark quickly let him know that he would be happy to stay home—with pay—on these windy days, and the project may eventually get done in the next few years, instead of the next few months.
The show went on, and the anemometer was never seen again.
Apparently there is a weather-related Bermuda triangle in western Kansas.
Mark told me another story about a trip home from his grandparents on Christmas day when he was about ten years old, not far from where Gail now lives.
“The snow was so heavy, Dad had to open the car door to check to lines on the highway every few minutes to make sure he was still driving between them.”
Suzanne and I were recalling a trip very close to that same place we took several years ago. We were traveling west to meet Gail in early March for our annual Colorado trip. There was no prediction that we knew of, but we encountered a freak, brief mini-blizzard about an hour from Gail’s house. The snow became heavy, deep and slushy, as the temperature hovered just below 32 degrees. We struggled to see the road ahead (we didn’t have to open the door to see the lines, though). We called Gail, and she didn’t believe us because the sun was shining there.
“Every winter has the sun within its heart.”
I put Steve Winwood on as I sat down to wrap this post up; anticipating his show in my small city just five weeks from tonight. These lyrics jumped out at me.
Today, the predicted high was 46 degrees with sun. “I can live with that,” I thought. Hoping it would be true, I hung my laundry out this morning. So far, it hasn’t climbed much above freezing, and as I write, I see the sun trying to poke out to tease me, because now it is gone again.
The coldest, cruelest winter days always bring hope. I have survived 50 Kansas winters—I spent one in Pennsylvania–and I will survive more as long as I am here. This is home, and I have made peace with it—most days. Spring springs with green and hope, and I always find myself in a higher place when that happens.
It’s not too early to start Christmas shopping for those perfect gifts that I always find for Suzanne and Gail. Perhaps this year it will be an anemometer.