>Let’s Talk About the Weather

>I’m sitting here writing this (Wednesday night) and wondering if my husband will make it home. It’s been mixed snow, rain, and every possible combination of the two all day, so the roads are… interesting, and conditions are deteriorating.

Where this gets interesting, and ties into writing, is that a little over five years ago this would have been utterly alien to me. I’d encountered snow maybe twice in my entire life up until then. Now, well… I got home from work this evening, and the first thing I did was get the snow shovel and clear the front path. Now, if you’ve never shoveled snow before, the stuff is fricking heavy. Shoveling it is hard work, no matter what those damn postcards say. And snow does come in multiple types. There’s the soft fine white powdery crap that feels kind of like cold sand, the heavy wet crap which is kind of warmer and tends to happen more when the temperatures are hovering somewhere close to freezing as opposed to below freezing. There’s re-snow, which happens on a windy day after heavy snowfalls. Whiteout, where the stuff is coming down so thick and fast you really can’t see where the heck you’re going. And it’s all, every last bloody kind of it, miserable.

It’s also unearthly quiet. It’s silent coming down unless there’s wind, and then what you hear is the wind, not the snow. You hear sleet and rain, but not snow. The wretched stuff also muffles everything else.

As for snow-blindness, well, I knew about that intellectually, but I didn’t understand it until the day I saw snow-covered fields glistening silver in bright sunlight.

All of that, including struggling through hip deep snow, is writing experience. Without it, the long march to Constantinople in Impaler wouldn’t have been anywhere near as vivid.

One day I’ll get to write something that uses some of my tropical weather experiences too, like the warm rain (aka ‘liquid sunshine’ or ‘pineapple juice’), or days where it’s gotten so hot that when a storm comes through and the rain starts you get curlicues of mist rising off every surface, or humidity so thick you wiggle your little finger and break out in a sweat. Or the storms sweeping through and people going out into them to get wet and cool down.

In the meantime, of course, the inner writer keeps watching what’s going on and taking lots of notes. It’s all useful someday.

So what are some of the times where you thought you understood something and then experienced it – and really understood it?

Oh, and a bonus for the Brisbaneites – Before and After pictures of the floods: http://www.abc.net.au/news/infographics/qld-floods/beforeafter.htm


  1. >This winter has brought the most snow I've ever seen in one place in my entire life. I now, finally, understand why my dad cusses any time he sees a single flake. I still like to watch it fall though.

  2. >Growing up in California, there were two temperatures. Hot-and-dry-let's-swim and cool-maybe-it-will-rain.Snow was something that happened up in the mountains. If you were masochistic you could go up and ski. Then I got a driver's license, and fog became something I noticed. Especially once I started driving to college across a very fog-prone floodplain.It wasn't until I moved to Houston that I learned how miserable heat could be. In California, five percent humidity is high. In Houston it would be a miracle. The air's so thick with water vapor you have to chew it before you can inhale. I learned about street flooding when it rained three inches in three hours. Regularly. I learned to track hurricanes. I got blase about them until Ike. Sustained winds close to a hundred miles an hour are impressive.I have never shovelled snow. A great gap in my knowledge. Because I think you have to have felt the misery to write it well.

  3. >C Kelsey, Its been fascinating this winter, but you've still not seen a really, really bad winter.Pam, Go up and visit Sarah some winter week, I'm sure they'll let you shovel for an hour or two.

  4. >Kate, You left out the fun, fun snow experience that changes from fluff to hard and back and produces brick hard layers that break shovels in the middle.

  5. >Chris KInitially I was enchanted. That lasted until I had to shovel it and drive on it. Yes, it's picture-postcard pretty when it's fresh, but the disgusting gray brown muck that happens along the roads is another thing altogether.

  6. >Matapam,Oh, yes. The drinkable air effect in Houston. And the insta-rivers. Brisbane is rather like that in summer, too, where you take a breath and think you're drowning (Waterboarding? Pfui. Just send 'em to Houston in summer. Without air conditioning.)Shoveling snow is miserable. You get hot and sweaty, but you're not taking the jacket off because you'll freeze if you do.

  7. >O'Mike,Oh, yes. And the associated lesson: do NOT put off shoveling snow until it's had a chance to melt a bit. You need a fricking jackhammer to break that shit up.

  8. >I got to experience a Brazilian student's first experience with snow in Minneapolis. We were inside a building and it had started to snow heavily. He asked a variety of odd questions. The one I still remember was if the snow would hurt you if it fell in your eye. I went out and brought in a handful and I recall the tentative way he reached out a finger to push into it.I thought… didn't the freezers frost in Brazil?But maybe that was the problem. Freezer ice is hard.

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