Keep an Eye on the Weather

It’s been snowy here for over a month. It’s never snowy here in March. Walla Walla is a place where the winters are gray, and fog freezes, but the occasional snow disappears pretty much as quickly as it comes. And it’s also, usually, a place where spring comes early. When my husband visited Walla Walla in March fourteen years ago to interview for his job, he called me and said there were trees already in bloom. We were living for the year in Arkansas, where it was springtime, too. I was eight and a half months pregnant, wondering if the baby would be born while he was away, and it seemed like every time I ventured outside, more flowers had opened: the whole world was making itself beautiful for the baby.

Anyway, this March is different. And this morning, the sky is particularly gray and heavy. The air feels still. When cars drive by, the ice crunching under their tires sounds like it’s reaching up and ripping something important off their metal bodies. The temperature is supposed to stay below freezing for at least a few more days, so I don’t think the snow is going anywhere. March. I’m ready for flowers.


It always feels like a conversation has failed once it turns to the weather. But, when I’m writing, I’ve often found the weather a go-to for entry into what I’m trying to say. Or for helping me find what I want to say. Or for realizing that there’s something about the world that I don’t have words for yet, but that is right there, close by, if I could just access it.

I remember riding bikes, waiting for a hurricane, when I was six or seven, the air electric but strangely still. I was the youngest of the neighborhood kids, and I was sitting on the back of the girl across the street’s bike, and as we rode, she kept deliberately crashing into the hedge at the side of the street. I remember laughing, and wobbling, and then screaming, and then crashing, over and over, and the sense of the world around us getting ready to crash in a way that was so powerful we couldn’t even imagine it. I’ve felt that way at other times, maybe not in such a giddy way, but in a way where it felt like the outside world was entering my internal world through the weather.


So here’s my prompt: take a second to think back through your life to three moments when the weather presented itself in an overwhelming way. It could be a snowstorm. It could be the summer heat. It could be rain that came down and down and down until you were sure the world would be washed away. Then set a timer. Write for five minutes about each moment. Don’t try to connect them—just try to describe, as clearly as possible, what was going on. Once you’re done, read what you’ve written and see if you can find a common thread that runs through each of the moments: maybe quiet, or fear, or excitement, or mystery, or anticipation, or confusion, or something else all together. Then write the moments again, making that thread clearer. See if you come up with something that makes connections you didn’t even know were there.


Let me know on my Facebook page about weather that has stayed with you.