Saturday, June 06, 2009


Everyone here is obsessed with the weather and not only listens to the reports via radio, TV and computers, but also compares the forecasts to each other’s fav source and to the opinion of neighbors, esp. the old-timers. When one gets up in June to discover a half-inch of snow, the motivation is clear. We knew it was coming. It’s supposed to be this kind of weather until Monday.

And it’s been a lot worse before.

Browning old-timers remember the time it snowed four inches for the Fourth of July and, since this was back in the Forties sometime, there were no motels. People took the tourists into their homes. Of course, tourists in those days were different, a hardier bunch seeking experiences that didn’t necessarily center on luxury. Anyway, today’s independent tourist comes in a million-dollar RV, though they complain when the mountains prevent good television reception. They never meet any locals except “wait persons” and clerks.

The temp just outside my bathroom window is 35, which is the same temp as inside my bathroom since the window is cracked. I just HATE having to back off from summer. But it may have been a mistake to take the electric mattress pad off the bed. At least my footwarmer is still plugged in and warm. Happy feet means a happy typist. It’s cold enough that the housetops are staying white but warm enough that all paved surfaces are wet. There’s a breeze so most trees and bushes are shaking off the spitting snow as it falls. That includes the blooming lilacs.

I haven’t heard what it’s doing in other places, but there’s bound to be a lot of snow up towards the mountains which is all to the good, since the snowpack sank much too quickly and too far in May. After a wet April, we had a dry May. Think pendulum. Every extreme is soon matched by an equal and opposite extreme. At the outer limits of each extreme, some living things are eliminated by cold or drought. It could be worse: the rainfall in Washington, D.C. at the moment is 300% of “normal” and some things will drown, hopefully not too many people.

Every time we have a weather extreme like this in Montana, we say, “Oh, good. That will drive out the Californians.” We don’t really mean actual card-carrying Californians, we mean privileged, over-educated, “life-style” aficionadoes. But the rich ones don’t leave because they can afford to build roaring fires in their huge stone mansions and sip something restorative. (I don’t mean the sugarless hot chocolate I plan on having with my tuna-fish-on-toast lunch.) They already drive cars capable of handling weather. It does drive out the marginal people, some who came here looking for a refuge and some who’ve been here all along, some of them Native American. It makes the old people ache and long for sun, but few have enough money to just leave. They’re lucky to afford to turn the gas back on. There is an abandoned, very old, and possibly homemade RV parked by the post office just now. No one knows why. A Montana plate.

Snow in June is inconvenient and hard on livestock but not so much on plants. It’s transient and most of us humans know to compensate some way: drive to a shopping town and take in a movie or bake stuff all day. And make plans enabled by the moisture, like pulling weeds since they’ll come up easier now. Catch up on paperwork under a warm desk lamp. Or go the other way: do something vigorous outside, but not lawn-mowing. All the painting and caulking I want to do will have to wait for warm temps.

My movie yesterday and the day before (I watched it twice) was “September” from the Rosamund Pilcher novel. She’s Scots, of course, so this kind of weather features largely in her plots. Even with the movie crew supplying artificial sunshine, the actors/characters keep jackets and “Wellies” by the outside doors. They wear hats with brims that turn down all around and practical shoes with anklets, except for the men, who wear suits because Pilcher always concentrates on the wealthy, titled, fancy people -- making it seem as though their only problems are interpersonal relationships, which are hard enough and deserve our attention. She makes the point that the Scots clan system eliminates the idea of servants and instead creates something like interlocking families. Right. The reservation is like that, too.

We’re all slowly beginning to realize that there’s no such thing as global warming, because what we’ve been calling “warming” is really raw energy that can slip into being violent sudden sequences of weather-swings like mood-swings. It does seem to be increasing when one looks at the statistics, as though someone were stirring the atmosphere with a giant spoon and speeding up as well as stirring with more force. At the same time we’re finding out more about the cosmic weather, the solar wind and so on. A human life doesn’t really last long enough to appreciate the big patterns, nor does human civilization -- if you count from the beginning of agriculture ten thousand years ago when the ice ace began to retreat -- last long enough to record anything much except the overwhelmingness of the changes possible.

In June, 1999, when I moved back here, there was a frost halfway through June and everyone lost their gardens, at least those who didn’t use walls o’water or some other cover. But after 1961 when I came here for the first time, I remember both summers when there was no “summer” and winters when there was no “winter.” Bob’s dad came in 1903. I wish I knew how to access the records for weather patterns in that whole century and the century before it (if there were any), because it is a major component of history -- creating and destroying empires and population patterns.

In the meantime, one cat is curled up under the computer lamp and the other has made a nest in the bed, in the micro-migrations that create a household. Both bailed on me in the night, because I stubbornly left the window open an inch -- even without the electric mattress pad. I dreamt of being a child in Oregon where we always slept with the window open at least a little and the many blankets were wool.

1 comment:

artemesia said...

No snow here, Mary, just grey overcast skies and thank goodness coolish days! The rivers are very high, fish happily feeding before dusk, greenery abounds and roses bloom!