Weather-watching obsession – does this make me an ol’ coot?

Watching the weather is a favorite hobby of mine.  I don’t generally get my weather reports from television, but I might as well be one of those people we see in comedies, who fixate on the Weather Channel and sit there for hours, soaking up data about places they’ve never been, never intend to go, and if they did go there, they wouldn’t know anyone. Those people are portrayed as coots. (One definition of  a coot:   simple-minded.)  A weather fanatic will say to no one in particular,  “I knew it.  I knew that system was gonna come in early.”  

Except for not watching the Weather Channel (tornadoes and hurricanes are exceptions that demand TV coverage) I may be one of those people.

I check the Weather Channel’s website several times a day for places where friends and relatives live.  Every trip for me begins with where I can fill in the name of any city and see what’s predicted for the next ten days. 

It might be an inherited trait, since my country born-and-bred father had a set of weather instruments on the back porch and glanced at them  several times a day, always remarking out loud on what he saw there.  He often disputed what the dials told him, and he was always right.  He could feel changes in his bones. 

Something about working out in the fields as a boy and his own deep respect for nature had permanently tuned him in to the time for sowing and the time for reaping. His instincts often did not agree with the calendar. He’d wake up and announce that he was going out to our vegetable garden. “I better go pull up the radishes and the collards before the sun hits ’em again.”   And this while rain was still falling.   He knew when a big change was coming.

I don’t have the knack he did for predicting imminent change, but I’m always hopeful about it. Our problems may stick around, but at least we can count on the weather to change.  When my diagnosis is boredom,  just watching the weather offers promise. 

One reason I love  my part of Northern California (and envy New Englanders)  is that the weather plays tricks on the forecasters.  Mother and Father Nature send along surprises  for us several times a month.  We’ll get rain when the sky was clear a minute ago.  Big winds arrive high up in the treetops, when the lower limbs don’t even know it yet.   Fog rolls in and out, but not always on the schedule we expect.  I’m disappointed when the fog fails to appear.  Like the redwood trees in the back yard, I rely on absorbing fog through my pores.  

I like being surprised by the weather.  Keeping the family’s weather-watching tradition alive  (my brother does this too) the first thing I do when the day arrives is go see what the weather is like outside, and I do it again before sleeping.  It seems I’ve been making my own notations out loud to no one in particular, without realizing it.   (Another definition of “coot” might be “predictable.”)

I haven’t been a grandmother all that long and sometimes I forget a small person is nearby. They’re always listening, aren’t they?  One recent morning while I was visiting at her house, I opened the drapes and stood there for a minute with my coffee cup.  From the little girl who’d snuck up behind me I heard, 

“Hammy, you forgot to say ‘It’s a beautiful day.'”

Generations of weather-watchers later, we’ve added one more.

Ó Anita Garner

Paperwhites – Bloom Where You’re Planted

My southern-preacher daddy often advised his congregation from the pulpit to “Bloom where you’re planted.”  He meant it in terms of doing good works, no matter where life takes you.  Another meaning of the phrase was evident in all his sermons as he exhorted the church to quit complaining and get on with what you’re put here to do.  

As a masterful gardener, daddy had an aversion to forcing blooms.  When pressured by mother, he’d cut flowers for her and bring them inside, one bloom at a time, in a small vase.  But he refused to buy hothouse flowers because of what he considered their unnatural growing conditions.  His theory about blooming where you’re planted was at odds with an industry’s need to “force” plants.

The root (sorry) of his aversion to cutting flowers may have been the fact that his family were farmers by occupation.  Some of them were sharecroppers and at other times they grew vegetable gardens and sold produce for a living.  Daddy gardened with his own daddy in order to survive. There was never time or space for recreational plants.

When we moved from the deep south to southern California, a new world grew outside.  Birds of Paradise.  Avocados.  Camellias.  For the first time, he had a pleasure garden and he delighted in tending plants that nobody had to have.  

At first he was apologetic about the rows of irises he planted around his vegetable patch, but soon delicate pansies lined the driveway out front.  He was fearless.  He’d try anything.  He coaxed to giant size some plants that shouldn’t have been able to thrive in Glendale, and later Palm Springs, California. 

To the end, he resisted indoor plants.

Daddy had been gone for years by the time I began putting narcissus bulbs in a pot on the windowsill during the winter. This year my small granddaughter helped pat the soil around the bulbs and give them a good long drink.  Every day we watch the shoots grow taller. 

I can’t wait to see her face when the first lacy white bloom pokes out.  Who am I kidding?  I plant these for me, for no purpose other than the pure enjoyment of watching them send up green shoots and then those blooms with the intense fragrance. 

If this is a kind of sinful excess, it’s one I intend to commit every year that I’m lucky enough to enjoy the winter light.  If Daddy were here, if he’d had a chance to meet his great-granddaughter, I’m guessing he’d make an exception.  He might find a way to include our windowsill garden in his definition of blooming where you’re planted.

Ó Anita Garner 2008