By Bill Biddle
Red rock rattlesnake hills
White slopes of Roundtop,
Capwright, Pipestone Canyon.
These are the opening lines of “Rattlesnake Hills” by Jim Doran. The entire poem (a good one!) appeared in the April 21 issue of this paper in the section entitled “Poets’ Corner.” Weatherwatch warmly encourages readers to read the monthly poems that appear there. Good poetry!
Jim probably did not have in mind the white, wind-blown slopes of Gardner Mountain when he wrote those lines, but that is just what the Methow Valley is looking at this first week of May. Fierce winds in the valley, more white-on-white all over the mountains. Yes, winter is still in them thar hills. White-on-white will continue to pile up most of May, belying the scent and sights of spring in the valley, from the glorious green of the aspen leaves to the sun yellow of the balsamroot blooms. But May is spring, isn’t it?
Not this year in the Methow Valley and, for that matter, in the whole Northwest. This column has been predicting for some time that our valley will experience climate change along with all of North America. More snow, more rain, more wind, more chill, more heat, more desiccating dryness – in short, all that we have had before, but more of it and more intense.
William Shakespeare speaks well for the Methow in his Sonnet 18, l.3: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. This sonnet is the fulcrum that lifts the Summer guide 2010 Weatherwatch forecast. As Janet here at the newspaper just said about the hail storms on May 3rd on the west side: “Wild ride!”
But May will return in all its early summer beauty during the third and fourth weeks. Richard Barnfield (1574-1627) wrote lines that we can savor during those weeks:
As it fell upon a day
In the merry month of May,
Sitting in a pleasant shade
Which a grove of myrtles made.
Yes, a grove of aspens or poplars will be a welcome relief from the midday heat that will permeate the closing days of May. The rivers and creeks will rage and rush as the white-on-white of early May melts into a torrent that will move boulders as big as refrigerators. Memorial Day weekend will be hot and dusty!