Tag Archives: summer

Spooky action at a distance

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At this time of the year, when the worm moon greets dawn’s croaking grackles, I find myself unable to quit my weather app, which I check obsessively.

A decade ago, friends of mine from England asked what sort of outerwear would be suitable for our Canadian Maritime climate in the middle of May. I said something like, “Don’t worry your pretty little Brit heads. We’re well past the worst of Mother Nature’s seasonal tantrums.”

They arrived, happy and shiny and right on schedule, at Stanfield International Airport. Two days later, 40 centimetres of snow dropped.

Friends of mine from England are no longer speaking to me.

But, then, how was any of this my fault?

I had a weather app, for God’s sake.

“You know I actually work for a living,” a tech-savvy Meteorologist acquaintance of mine protested over the phone the other day. He was alluding to the fact that I am a lowly freelancer who prefers to scribble in his “leisure suit” between bouts of weather-induced paranoia.

“Sure, sure,” I spluttered, “but what do you make of these forecasts? How do you know what is or isn’t going to happen in my backyard 14 days from now?”

One word, he said: “Algorithms . . .The less snow that falls in any given winter, the more snow gets computer modelled and pushed to the end of the year. It’s math, boy, simple math.”

So, all of this is accurate, yes?

“No,” he sighed. “Well, sometimes.”

That, I declared, “is not fair.”

No, it’s not, he sighed. “Neither is the fact that you’re an idiot.”

Be that as it may, in the Great While North – where Spring often meets Winter for a robust afternoon of ice dancing on some cosmic frozen pond of their mutual liking – I am not alone in thinking that I have a right to understand, with a smartphone in hand, the shape of all the universe’s spooky actions at a distance.

Some years ago, under crisp and brilliantly clear late-April skies, I peeled out of the driveway of my Guysborough County farmhouse to commence the first leg of a business trip to Halifax. The coast was clear. The CBC said so.

Twenty kilometres up the highway, a snow squall forced me off the road. When it was over, I limped back to the shore through 12 centimetres of treacherous, rapidly melting muck, listening to the public broadcaster predict, “Nova Scotia will be absolutely beautiful today.”

Of course, the weather – like hockey – is one of those glorious preoccupations Canadians almost never get right. A Farmer’s Almanac item recently observed: “Before there were apps for your phone, Doppler radar or the National Weather Service, people looked to the signs of nature to prepare for what’s to come.”

The venerable source was talking about the American Midwest, but the folklore could easily apply to the Canadian East Coast: “Heavy and numerous fogs; racoons with bright bands; woodpeckers sharing trees; thick hair on the nape of cows’ necks; and pigs gathering sticks.”

On the other hand, according to my limited research, here are some sure signs that spring has sprung: Heavy and numerous fogs; racoons with bright bands; woodpeckers sharing trees; thick hair on the nape of cows’ necks; and pigs gathering sticks.

And what about that balefully glaring “worm moon” (also sometimes known as the “super moon” when it appears, as it did this year, on the vernal equinox). Scientists think it might make certain animals. . .uh. . .friskier than normal. Isn’t that also a sure sign of spring?

As for me, I continue to rely on my weather app. It tells me in its own inimitable, techno-spoken language about thick mists, critter fur, avian condo dwellers, and the porcine obsession with twigs – all that I may expect in the coming weeks.

Thank you, weather app.

Unless it snows.

Then, curse you weather app.

It’s funny how I never do this in the middle of summer.

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The seasons of our discontent

Permanent winter for a Moncton events centre?

Summer came in like a lamb, and, for all intents and purposes, it settled for a long slumber from which it has yet to fully awake.

On the first day of autumn, in Moncton, the sky was azure blue, a light southwest wind blew, and the temperature was Bermuda-warm.

In the weeks and months ahead, I will remember that day because, for sanity’s sake, I must.

How else does one survive the winter that is surely to come?

There are no descriptions sufficiently accurate to capture the utter absurdity of last year’s white and woolly season – in fact “white and woolly” doesn’t even scratch the surface.

During the days just before Christmas 2014, a record seven feet of flakes fell on Buffalo, New York. In comparison, we on Canada’s East Coast had gotten off Scot-free. In fact, on December 27, the mercury didn’t dip below 16C. We could have been forgiven for believing that the rest of the winter would be just as mild. Except for the fact that The Almighty was not in a forgiving mood.

When Old Man Winter finally descended sometime in mid-January, he arrived for the duration – kicking up his feet, daily belching snow and ice, until, under some of the coldest temperatures on record, he had deposited as much as 500 centimeters (16.4 feet) on my West-end neighbourhood of the Hub City, by early April. Even the old-timers where astonished.

At some point in late June, the last of the once-incredible snow dump, adjacent to the Shopper’s Drug Mart on Vaughan-Harvey Blvd., had finally melted to the ground, leaving only the standards and flags intrepid mountaineers had planted on its peak.

Then, mercifully, came summer – one of the finest and longest on record in this corner of the Canadian Steppe.

Also, rather rudely, came Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s election call on August 6, reminding us all that October 19 is just around the corner, vaulting us all into the shoulder season that prefaces the arrival of winter, once again.

There ought to be a law, in this country, that proscribes warm-weather political campaigns – one that prohibits stern-faced candidates from invoking the certainty that our cold, dark, worried hearts are as inevitable as a February Nor’easter.

Leave that to the shovel season, when those who want to vote for “one-of-the-above” or “none-of-the-above” must work to get out of their driveways and exercise their democratic rights, come rain, sleet, ice, and snow.

As it is, signs urging voters to nullify their ballots have been showing up all over Moncton’s downtown in recent days – the lazy, hazy consequence, perhaps, of a glorious summer, interrupted by the same, old politics of division, easy partisanship, and cynical vote pandering.

Try erecting those road-sign messages (any messages) in the middle of a blizzard; see how far you get.

Still, we persevere; looking for a main chance, searching for a man or woman who will speak the truth, for once, to power, tracking the Great Dear of democracy through the September of our expectations, the snows of the impossible winters of our frozen minds, the frigid springs of our disbelief, and, finally, the summer seasons of our discontent.

As for me, I will take the last of this beatific time of the year to reflect, under the blue sky and baking temperatures, on the fleeting nature of pure joy: When the lambs and lions of the political world might finally lie down together, and contemplate building this province, this region, this country together.

After all, then, and only then, will we fully awake.

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