By Bill Biddle
There is a saying that the Methow Valley has two seasons: Winter and the Fourth of July. Weatherwatch concurs. The Wolf Creek weather station had winter-like temperatures in the low 40s in the early morning hours of the last Monday in June. Snow still speckles the slopes of Gardner Mountain, vast snow banks still line the highway at Washington Pass and patches are still visible at the Rainy Pass trailhead.
But this is the month of the Fourth. Rejoice! Winter has been pushed into the high hinterland, where it will stay for these two summer months. September will have fresh snow in the high country, but that forecast is eight weeks away.
The July forecast is simple thanks to another weather devotee, the Canadian poet and novelist, Margaret Atwood. Marla at Santoro’s Books in Seattle on Greenwood Avenue North helped Weatherwatch find Margaret Atwood’s poem “The Weather” in her new collection entitled, The Door. As Weatherwatch was standing in the aisle, the book exhaled and Weatherwatch inhaled. Her poem uncannily captures the forecast for July. The entire poem, with interpolations from Weatherwatch, will do the trick for this month’s column.
We used to watch the birds;
now we watch the weather.
White clouds, downy as pillows,
grey ones like giant thumbs,
dark ones, fat with doom.
The giant thumbs – cumulus congestus – will appear during the second week of July, with dark ones bringing thunder and lightning on the ninth and 10th.
Once, we didn’t bother.
We had umbrellas, and rooms.
But while we were looking elsewhere,
at wars or other diversions,
the weather crept up behind us
like a snake or thug or panther
and then cut loose.
Why were we so careless?
we ask ourselves, as the weather billows
over the horizon, green
and yellow, thickening itself
with sand and body parts and broken
chairs and shouts.
In its wake we shrivel or drown.
Strong winds will buffet the valley about the 15th with garden furniture tossed hither and thither.
How can we cram it back
into the sack or bottle
where it used to be so small?
Who let it out?
Weatherwatch takes responsibility for letting the bag of wind open up.
If the weather’s listening at all
it’s not to us.
Is it our fault?
Did we cause this wreckage by breathing?
All we wanted was a happy life,
and for things to go on as they used to.
The wind falls. There’s a hush,
a half-hour silence in heaven.
Then here comes the weather
– again, again –
one huge relentless blare,
trampling everything down,
singeing the air.
Smoke will fill the valley from scattered forest fires during the fourth week.
It’s blind and deaf and stupendous,
and has no mind of its own.
Or does it? What if it does?
Suppose you were to pray to it,
what would you say?
Weatherwatch would say let the summer weather of the Fourth continue through August and keep winter in the high country.
Weatherwatch’s forecast for August? Stay tuned!