Archive for the ‘how weather affects lives’ Category

Answer #4 (Part II) Questionnaire for Long-Time Diarists: Barry

February 13, 2014

Cynthia comments:  I think many of us write about the weather because it is a grounding element.  No matter what else is happening in our lives the weather is always there, and yet it is always changing.  Odd dichotomy: steady, but mutable.  It can usually be described without much angst (notable exceptions here), and it can be peaceful, beautiful.   Nature may not always be idyllic but it can be entertaining and very interesting.

This photo is a sunset on my farm in Colorado, October 2013.

This is how Barry replies to the question “Do you record nature?”

IMG_0563Years ago I read in a literature anthology that New England writers never felt comfortable in writing about the emotional and sexual life, but nature, given by god, was an open field for their enthusiasm and desire. If that is the case then I have a major work of sublimation in my years of writing about the weather.


I write about nature as much as possible. It is the one subject I never tire of. I do read the nature writers with profound pleasure and appreciation. Every new day brings another page of wildflowers, clouds and trees. Writing about nature has made me mindful of what I love and brought me closer to it. From my very first diary in 1971 I began to notice trees and rocks and open fields.


I don’t do much more than describe nature, over and over again. I can’t explain it. I’m not a scientist nor do I have the bent of mind that wants to know everything we can know about a plant or a landscape. I do learn from such material but as a writer I just like to write about being there in the moment. Many of my pages are descriptions of walks I take along the shore or through local parks and neighborhoods. Many of the pages are even closer to my home looking out the window as I write or sitting under the maple tree and surveying my garden. I can’t even tell you why I do this and why it means so much to me. Perhaps because I am completely free to indulge this sensual pleasure without guilt, morality or judgment. So much of it is connected to childhood delight. I grew up on a quarter acre lot next to a brook in the industrial city of Bridgeport, Ct. The contrast between nature and factory streets fascinated me and dominated my imagination.


If you take nature out of my diaries they would probably shrink by half. This is one reason I write in diaries. I can write about nature every day and damn well do as I please without an editor’s permission. It is my love and my reason for writing. The most accessible part of my imagination and my emotional life. This isn’t to say that I don’t write about family, travel, reading etc. but everything starts with a look out my window or a foot on the pavement.







Whether Weather

February 27, 2011

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.

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