What’s the weather forecast?

Car makes an excellent snow fence.It’s downright balmy out as I consider these thoughts. The thermometer claims about 45 F, and there’s a breeze blowing across what is left of a 30-inch blizzard that blanketed us just over a week ago. The raised-garden frames, themselves only about 10 inches high, are well exposed. There is weather outside my window, and it’s not bad.

My mother used to watch the weather forecast every night. She would announce, “It’s time for the news,” and take her place on the end of the couch.

But it wasn’t the news that interested her. She would talk through the news. In fact, one could say when the news was on TV was the time for news of the family and people we knew. One might call it “back fence time,” only we didn’t have a back fence, and if we had, there were no neighbors close enough to lean on it.

But when the weather portion came on, no one was allowed to breath. She was rather emphatic about that. She had to know whether tomorrow was going to be OK for doing laundry. Or working in the garden. Or plowing snow.

Mom washed laundry in the old wringer Maytag in the garage, and hung it out on a long line over the driveway where the sun, as it passed on its daily travel, could bleach the sheets the way that chlorine mixture in the white and blue jug never could.

We have an aunt staying with us for a bit, and every night she asks me, “What’s the weather forecast?”

My standard reply: “Well, it’s going to get dark, and a bit cold, and then in a few hours it will get light again and maybe a bit warmer.” It is kind of our joke.

But I’ve mostly never seen what difference it made. If you want to talk about climate — whether this winter is seeing more or less snow than 20 years ago, or whether hurricanes might become more common in New Jersey, I’m your guy. And when I was plying my skills as an airplane pilot, I found it handy to know whether I was about to fly into a thunderstorm. But in my earthbound activities, tomorrow’s weather has generally been of little import.

If I walked outside in the morning and my feet got wet, there probably had been precipitation. If my head got wet, the sky was still falling. If the ground had disappeared in the night, it wasn’t rain. And if that was the case, I likely was getting cold and didn’t stay in it long without a hat.

The calendar is coming up on spring, that season when the ice piles up on certain creeks and rivers and causes floods behind the unfreezing dams. In another month, in a standard New England winter, farmers will be running plastic tubing among the sugar maples, collecting sap for maple syrup.

Here in South Central Pennsylvania, it is not such an industry, but each year, Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve taps a few trees and demonstrates the craft to school kids. The past summer stretched into late December, though, and there is concern the trees may not sufficiently hibernate. Even if they do, maple sap, to make good syrup, requires spring nights below freezing and days in the 40s.

I wonder what spring will be like this year. What I know for sure is there will be periods of light interspersed with periods of dark, with generally matching alternations of warm and cold – and from time to time when I step outside in the morning my head will get wet.

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