Whether or not we should bother writing about the weather in our diaries, most of us do. Whether the weather is a backdrop or an actual character in our writing probably says more about our connection with nature, or lack of anything else interesting to write about. Unquestionably it influences our daily lives. Weather changes our moods, our activities, sometimes our lives. I consider it a major player in Fate: icy roads, sub-zero temperatures, the extremes of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, create hardship and tragedy.
It is easy to forget how frail we become if we should lose the security of modern technology. Experience one power outage in the dead of winter and you will have a new outlook. Become trapped once by a change in the weather and you will be a wiser human. Battle for your life against the elements and you will test your limits. I snort in disbelief when I see college students in flip-flops in sub-zero weather. How naive they are, how trusting in their fate.
The older diaries in my possession all record the weather:
Josephine Conklin’s 1880 New York diary mentions the weather in the first sentence of every three sentence entry. 9-1-1880: ” It has been awful warm today and I have washed the colored clothes and baked bread…” And 11-13-1880: “It has snowed some. I have baked pies and a cake and made applesauce…”
My great grandma, Olive Sophia Barnard, says in her Wayne, Michigan diary on 7-3-1902: “Began raining last night and continued all night – heavy thunder showers, garden and Lena’s place entirely under water. Cows had to swim on the flats this morning. Took pictures of river.”
My great great grandma, Pamelia Pattison Chubb says in her 7-17-1873 entry (also from Wayne, Michigan): “Rain with high wind, picked berries made current wine.” And 5-16-1873: “Rather pleasant but a cool wind, missed our usual rain, water getting rather low in cellar.”
Mrs. Herbert Abbott (I presume), from Coloma, Michigan, says on 6-5-1934: “Still very hot and dry. Strawberry crop almost a failure.” On 5-9-1934: “Terrible electric storm before we were up. It struck our radio.” Later she said, “got our radio fixed.” On 3-19-1934: “Washed a 2 week washing and did nearly all the ironing. Quite a nice day to dry them.”
Obviously, in “the olden days,” weather had a more direct impact on a person’s life. Too much rain or too little could change many things. Today it is the farmers and gardeners who pay the most attention to the weather.
I looked for weather in my own journals. Mostly it appears as a mood changer, occasionally as a phenomenon: 5-13-2004 “38 degrees this morning and snow is falling. It turns to water as it touches the earth. A quiet morning because of muffled sound from the heavy overcast sky and the dis-spirited animus of the living things. We all want to sleep. Zoe-cat is in my lap, croodling. We are close, clinging against the weather-change back to winter. On 3-5-2004 the farm was inside a snowglobe, a lovely sensation - “This kind of snow quiets everyone, like a lullaby. Even the young males do not race their cars down the street.”
Because I did not start an index until recently I will have to search for the day I witnessed the birth and ephemeral one minute life of a 30 foot snow-tornado only yards from where I stood. This was a private showing – just between the universe and me. Or the time it snowed rectangular snowflakes. Or best of all, the day in Arizona that I saw the end of the rainbow.
I think too much weather can be boring, but how important an element in some lives. If nothing else is happening, at least the weather is.