Yesterday the weather turned quite strange. It looked like sawdust, but white. Little chips of plastic bags perhaps? No, this seemed to be wet, like water. There was snow coming down for a few moments! If by down we mean coming sideways. There was snow coming sideways and every distant object vanished in this storm. Then, as suddenly as the squall started, the snow vanished and again the sky was clear, the clouds passed out of view, and the stars, at least those with enough lumens or however they measure starlight, were visible as were the fountains of light tossed of by buildings and signs for eateries and underwear. It was a break from the nonexistent winter we in the Northeast have enjoyed and a sign that while the flowers are starting to push up and open, this is a traditional winter month, or perhaps in a more politically correct manner, what was a “typical” winter month. Diversity, is now creeping into our seasons, and while I had thought we rid ourselves of autumn and spring, we may have indeed worked hard to rid ourselves of winter and summer, the two melding into winmmer or sumter where we enjoy fifty to sixty degree days and short or long bitterly cold nights, similar to the desserts of this planet or (give or take a few hundred degrees Kelvin) Mars or the variation between the dark and bright sides of the moon.
The weather has always been a set of strange guidelines rather than given rules, and I am not sure just how much people realize that at any time, anything can happen. When I was a kiddie I read a great deal of Eric Sloane and various Farmer Almanacs and learned of weather lore and ways to forecast from such and such moss on a tree or stripes on a certain caterpillar or the songs of birds. Now, I am not sure how to apply these old methods of divination, which were never themselves completely accurate, and how I can still use all my traditional… ahem, typical, knowledge to schedule my plantings or harvests or pencil in a weekend outdoor BBQ or especially long motorcycle ride or bonfire of tyres. I believe all this folk learnin’ and Fire Fox Book readin’ was a waste of time. What should I read into the signs in the forest that flowers are blooming in February? That I haven’t seen a bee in the wild for a decade? That the marshes I used to trundle about as a kiddie used to have a deafening cacophony of Spring Peepers are now silent? Last summer a very organic nursery was selling native conifers and I had to be the bearer of bad news that they were covered in Woolly Adelgid. We had almost gotten used to chopping down and burning all our American Elms and seeing more blights in the woods, but now we have another Asian invasion thanks to free trade and few inspections. Did we not learn anything from the Black Plague? Do I read that we will have a long dry summer because the Chinese Water Chestnuts (not the sort you get in a can from La Choy but these evil spiked pods that look like Alien heads) are choking lakes and ponds and not just the Hudson River? Will it be another four weeks of winter because I haven’t seen a bat in two years? I’ve almost gotten used to seeing shit tonnes of turkey vultures, but now there’s black vultures and vultures all year around and not just summertime. And I’ve gotten used to seeing more black squirrels, but purple ones too? Does this mean black or purple rain?
The water of the Esopus Creek hasn’t been clear since Irene. It looks like slurry, which for my urban readers can mean cement but for Upstaters means shitwater. This is not the damage of Mother Nature, but from pumping or dumping silt into the water to try to get rid of it before sending the water to New York City. I took a trip to visit Prattsville, a town in the upper Catskills that will soon be but another stretch of road as the majority of the houses are torn down due to damage by the floods created by Irene. I also passed through Phoenicia (pronounced locally as Phone-a-ki-ya) where the primary bridge to town has again washed into the drink, marking the third time I know of for the bridge to be out in the past five or so years and the third time that town was flooded in about a year as so-called hundred year floods seem to occur every hundred months. Is there some old wisdom put in rhyme form that goes “when summer’s water floods the town to three, the fourth one is free?”
This winter has been calm by all accounts for our region. Perhaps, if anything, a little too calm. As with all else in the world from BombBombBombBombIran(tm) to $5 a gallon gasoline, I can use the old expressions and look in back issues of Mother Earth News and examine Poor Richards Almanac for clues, but everything I know is shit in the face of what looks like a clusterfuck of a summer either way. Right now, I am not looking at moss to forecast. I am watching Ice Cream Island, the seasonal soft serve shack that balances on the side of Sawman’s Creek, right across Uncle Margaret’s bridge historic downtown Port Sam. Ice Cream Island was an economic powerhouse in Port Sam and brought all type and weights of soft serve connoisseurs. This establishment was such a gold mine that they used to share the wealth and threw huge celebrations about every two weeks during the summer with fireworks and music. The shack and surrounding signs, banners and kiddie rides were hit hard in the Irene flood. Most of the kiddie rides washed out to sea or were soaked beyond use. I heard over the “winter” that the soft serve and ice ceam machines were sold on craigslist, but that is currently a rumor.
I’m watching this little stand by the water for signs of green shoots, of some life returning to the still smashed windows and the soft serve again flowing in time for summer Happy Motoring. Right now, Ice Cream Island looks deader than those polecats worn around aunt Annie’s neck. Yup…. (straw in mouth) Looks like we gunna’ have a hard serve one this summer….