How's the Weather?
The older I got, the more common the question, “What kind of weather are ya’ll having?” Dad hardly ever started a phone conversation with me any other way. We would talk about the weather. How much rain have you had? My rain gauge had about an inch in it. The crops are fairing well this year. Uncle Phil will start cutting tobacco when the rain stops. I looked forward to talking about the weather. It was a part of the connection, a way to share and to keep time.
I thought about it the other day. John and I were driving on snowy roads, the kind of conditions that would keep Kentucky drivers home. Which is what guided my thoughts for a large segment of uphill road on the way to the grocery store. The way geography affects the seasons, gratitude for people who know how to drive on said snowy roads, a string of weather-related social media posts streaming through my mind. It’s kind of a joke about not knowing what else to talk about, how is the weather? But we really do talk about it a lot.
We stare awestruck at the way frost crystals form or the way the sun wins after a storm, the way a ring surrounds the moon or the strength of the wind to bend a tree low. And all of it means something, something powerful and yet subtle.
Watching the skies and learning to read the many markers God put in front of them was how both sets of my grandparents, and a few generations before them, paced their farming lives. They talked about the weather at the counter of the corner store, because they all shared the quilted landscape of fields. A dry spell or a twister or an early freeze could alter the entire year, changing their entire food chain, from seed to harvest to livestock to table. Weather wove a thread of community that was difficult to pull apart, for better or for worse. It was what they had in common.
I think that’s why Dad always started with the weather. Though he had long since hung up his farming clothes, he knew those patterns and what to watch for. It was something we shared in our history, that farming and small town thread. We could begin there, on the same field, where we were watching for the same things, standing under the same sun no matter the distance between us.
At the end of the day, I think most everyone wants a common and safe ground, a place to sit a spell and know we are in this thing together. It’s not a bad place to start.