Thinking… a not oft’ occurring condition in these parts. Kathy and I had dinner with a friend yesterday. He is 82. He returned a book, Blame It On the Rain by Laura Lee. The book led to conversation about how weather guides our activities — if we can at least guess at what is out there waiting for us.
Living in the Pacific Northwest weather sneaks up on us from the southwest as the clouds are pushed over the Olympic Peninsula; from the southeast when the Aleutian Low moves down and inland as the seasons change; from the north and northeast when the Polar Vortex exercises its influence on the weather systems north of the 45th Parallel. The North Pacific High draws the cooling air down from the Alaskan coast and keeps our summers mild and, in ‘normal’ years, keeps the snow at a viewing distance instead of a driving challenge.
These two systems, the Aleutian Low and the North Pacific High, create a slight problem for us as we head out the door. Do we look to the southeast, northwest, west — where will our weather come from for this run? How should we dress?
A second weather book: Weather Wisdom by Albert Lee, became a read-several-times book as I learned I needed to be able to look at the sky, not the weather channel. Oops… something in the oven… be back in a few minutes… this is not complete.
When we are on the road I try to get up before sunrise, partly to see the sunrise, partly to look at the sky–hoping I am looking in the direction we will travel.
Most places we have lived the weather comes from the west. In Arkansas the thunder would boom and roll in from Oklahoma. In North Dakota the winds from the north would be cold; from the west would bring snow—here on the island the morning was filled with a sunrise that went on and on, while the weather-bringer, the sky behind us, was calm that day.
Somewhere along the way I started looking at tree branches or flags, looking at the movement of a flag almost straight out from its staff–listening for when the trees quit swaying and started cracking. We have left the woods quickly on some days. Other days the wind stayed gentle, the trees merely danced for us as we ran. If the wind is not here, a rare occurrence, the fog comes to play or stay. The sound of the wind in the trees is replaced by the many-toned fog horns. The ships don’t really care what is out there. They just want to know where it is.
Only (almost) in the Pacific Northwest can you leave the rain forest green sogginess, cross a pass like this an hour later and in another hour be running in open desert enjoying the sun—with the almost always present grey clouds capping the Cascade Mountains just an arm’s length away.
If we can see those mountains… we might forget most of our weather comes from behind us.
On this day the Seattle weather people talked of heavy rain. The snow was falling thick and heavy about forty miles to our right. We are in a “rain shadow” and seldom have snow on the ground or days above 70ºF during the summer.
—–Run gently out there—–