By Bill Biddle
Rejoice! ye fields, rejoice! and wave with gold,
When August round her precious gifts is flinging;
Lo: the crushed wain is slowly homeward rolled:
The sunburnt reapers jocund lays are singing.
John Ruskin wrote this in the mid-1800s. Somehow or other he must have read the July Weatherwatch. He caught the sense of summer joy in that column. A chilly fall and a cold winter are ahead for the valley – so “be happy in your work” as the Japanese general told the soldiers in The Bridge over the River Kwai. The heat of August is short-lived!
A present-day reader of the July column is Bob of Backcountry Roasters here in Twisp. When your weathercaster visited his shop this past Saturday he mentioned that he had smelled smoke in the valley during the last week of July. “How did Weatherwatch know that the fires in B.C. and near Lake Chelan would occur?”
Elementary, Bob – poetry. Specifically, Margaret Atwood’s poem for July.
Another poet, Robert Bernard Hass, will be the weathercaster for August. His poem, “Counting Thunder,” was read by Garrison Keillor last week on his NPR daily poetry reading. Parts of the valley were treated to major thunderstorms during July; these will happen again in August and September. Some of them will be real dillies!
The whole poem is readily available on the Internet, but the third, fourth, and fifth stanzas describe very well what will happen during the second and fourth weeks of August here in the valley:
But lightning flash upon the ridge portends
A sudden change of weather is at hand.
Caught unaware, we face the rising wind
And count the interval before the sound
Of thunderclap announces the return
Of darker times we had soon forgotten.
The dog cowers. The weather vane turns
Wildly, and we scramble forth to batten
Down the shutters banging out their warning.
No use pretending storm clouds won’t draw near.
They’re certain now. The anvil head is mounting
High above the things we’ve held so dear.
Look at that “anvil head;” a cumulonimbus calvus. Watch for them during August.
But when you read this, be prepared for a delightful cool-down the end of this first week of August. We will also have some splashes of rain with a feel of September.
So, rejoice in August and join the sunburnt reapers. Sing their jocund lays!
September? Stay tuned!