The opening verse of the song “Like the Weather” by 10,000 Maniacs pops to mind during cold, rainy periods such as the recent soaking we suffered earlier this week. . .
“Color of the sky as far as I can see is coal grey.
“Lift my head from the pillow and then fall again.
“Shiver in my bones, just thinking about the weather.
“Quiver in my lip as if I might cry.”
Those dreary days can be easily forgotten as Wednesday gave way to gentle fall conditions. Is anyone with me in noticing the tree color? Could I be hallucinating or do the reds seem incredible this year? Even the sumac, usually a gorgeous deep burgundy is a flaming candy-apple red in many places!
I suffer such a love/hate reaction to this time of year. One the hand, the temperatures are falling and the changing leaves are lovely. But on the other hand, days are shortening . . . and I need my Vitamin D!
Admittedly, my schizophrenic-like attitude toward the weather is one in which I’m seldom content. Heat is my constant foe, and humidity? Forget it! I will never complain about the cold because you can always put on more layers (though my sisters would argue otherwise). But during those thick, steamy days of summer? You can only get so naked before you’re arrested, and then you’re still gross and sweaty!
In spite of my aversion to warmer climes, I must admit my recent sadness. All the glorious leaf colors and cooler temps serve as sentinels to my seasonal depression, heralding shorter days, cabin fever and miles waiting to be slogged on the treadmill.
While I truly appreciate temps in the teens, the limitations winter places on our lives is a total bummer. Thanks to wool socks and all sorts of layers, at least the cold and wind do not imprison me. But snow and ice? Yeah, I’m out . . . or rather, in.
When I asked my 11-year-old son his thoughts on the coming winter, he shared his excitement, claiming “there’s more to do outside during the winter.” Maclane noted sledding, snowboarding, snowball fighting. (I’ll remember this when he wants to be a toad, sit on the couch and play Minecraft all day.)
It was about six weeks ago, listening to Iowa Public Radio’s “Talk of Iowa” with Charity Nebbe, that I caught her interview with an editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
The winter forecast? Cold and blustery.
Seriously? After last winter?! Honestly, I hate to complain about last winter, but even I found it a little . . . long.
And now it would truly seem that our last hot days are behind us. Hurray! But does that mean I’m ready for cold and blustery? Nope, which is why I opted to snag a copy of the 2015 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac to find out for myself all that next year has in store for us.
Scanning the table of contents, there’s an actual guide to using The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a good thing considering there are parts which read like Galileo’s notebook. The calendar pages are the meat of the almanac, “these pages are unchanged since 1792, when Robert B. Thomas published his first edition. The long columns of numbers and symbols reveal all of nature’s precision, rhythm and glory, providing an astronomical look at the year 2015.”
One thing I remember from the public radio program was that the Almanac claims to have an 80 percent accuracy rate. Googling the question, “How accurate is The Old Farmer’s Almanac” I found many sites itching to complain about such a boastful claim.
A meteorologist writing for Slate, an online magazine, reported “Independent verifications of its forecasts by actual meteorologists over the years showed skill that was ‘laughable at best and abysmal at worst’ with accuracy about as good as a coin toss.”
But doesn’t longevity give its predictions a little cred? The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been released continually on an annual basis since first published 1792. And come on, am I alone in believing the science of meteorology can be a tad “iffy” at times?
While science is reporting a “warmish” winter, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting temperatures, precipitation and snowfall “below normal.” Could this be an indication of less ice i.e. fewer miles on the treadmill? Time will tell.
But as I read further, it was next summer’s prediction that had me groaning: “hotter and slightly drier than normal.” Though that could indicate a possibly less humid summer, it sounds like a scorcher could be in store.
In the meantime, I guess I’ll just enjoy fall while we have it: the beautiful colors, the milder temps, and the last few passes with the lawnmower before winter arrives and I batten down the hatches.
Originally published 18 October 2014 in The Observer.