On Reading / Poetry / The English Teacher

Meteorology or: How Poetry & Weather Mix

I’m back from a week that featured the most perfect island weather known to man. Brilliant sunshine every day. Passing clouds that not once let loose a drop of rain. Tropical breezes that sometimes veered to hat-lifting winds. Velvety nights featuring skies lit by stars that I would swear twinkled more brightly than the same ones I see when I’m at home. Ahhhhhh…. vacation.

Spring sprang while we were away. Emerald green grass in desperate need of not just a trim but a major hair cut. Crabapple trees in full bud and a few blooms. Redbuds showing off in their 2 weeks of stunning beauty, which I suppose makes up for the fifty other weeks of rather ho-humness. Tulips. Daffodils. A lilac daring to bud. Oh, and rain. Lots and lots of rain. And wind. Today, the Weather Channel boasts a WIND ADVISORY, cautioning that “unsecured objects will be blown about.” And we’d best “use extra caution” if we dare go out and drive.

Has anyone noticed that reports of any and all weather these days succumb to sensationalism? As a weather lover myself (honestly, why didn’t I study meteorology??), I tire rather quickly of the ruination of a good thunderstorm by the doom & gloom warnings of the local or national TV personalities who may or may not have degrees to substantiate their proclamations about what is happening ‘outside.’

As ever, the rain falls on the just and the unjust. Winds howl. Flood waters churn. Lightning strikes. Storms rage. You know, weather happens.

As ever, those of us merely trying to go about our daily affairs, whether they be centered in leisure or work, check the weather. Will it ‘rain on our parade’? Do we need sunscreen? Are we facing icy roads for the morning commute? Should we go to the basement? Do we need to evacuate? “How’s the weather out there?” remains a top contender for conversation starters. Weather. It’s everywhere.

Duh.

So who’s surprised that the glorious details of weather punctuate poetic expression? No one.

But who’s surprised that, for all our fascination with weather, no one has attempted to write a ‘history of the weather’? Until Billy Collins sort of did:

A History of Weather

Billy Collins

It is the kind of spring morning—candid sunlight

elucidating the air, a flower-ruffling breeze—

that makes me want to begin a history of weather,

a ten-volume elegy for the atmospheres of the past,

the envelopes that have moved around the moving globe.

 

It will open by examining the cirrus clouds

that are now sweeping over this house into the next state,

and every chapter will step backwards in time

to illustrated the rain that fell on battlefields

and the winds that attended beheadings, coronations.

 

The snow flurries of Victorian London will be surveyed

along with the gales that blew off Renaissance caps.

The tornadoes of the Middle Ages will be explicated

and the long, overcast days of the Dark Ages.

There will be a section on the frozen nights of antiquity

and on the heat that shimmered in the deserts of the Bible.

 

The study will be hailed as ambitious and definitive

for it will cover even the climate before the Flood

when showers moistened Eden and will conclude

with the mysteries of the weather before history

when unseen clouds drifted over an unpeopled world,

when not a soul lay in any of earth’s meadows gazing up

at the passing of enormous faces and animal shapes,

his jacket bunched into a pillow, an open book on his chest.

Watch the poet at work. The poem, strewn with ‘weather’ words go look, you’ll see), establishes the common ground of our experiences, ironically in the less substantial air above our heads. Mmmmm. So good.

Two of my favorite things. Wrapped in one lovely package. Thank you, Billy Collins.

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3 thoughts on “Meteorology or: How Poetry & Weather Mix

  1. Remember, it was inclement weather that brought us “Frankenstein.” And, to quote one of my favorite lyricists, Rich Mullins, in his song “The Color Green,”

    Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
    Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
    Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
    Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

    It is springtime in Indiana that to me demonstrates was a wonderful gift the color green truly is.

  2. For many decades my mother-in-law has kept a journal simply recording the weather and a line or two of significant events of the day. What a treasured volume this is to hand down for generations to come.

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