Friday, April 29, 2011

Calm Skies.

The puppet show sings along out there in the backcountry under its own power, and a cloudless cool Friday morning arrives like or even as a reminder of exactly what the sum total is supposed to be about, anyway, which is: Get the hell off your email. Get the hell off your hamster wheel, too. Side the final side of the writing shed. Don't do anything other than that. Anything other than that is too much, is taking space in your head from what that space should be given over to.

A high of 73 today. A low of 46 tonight. A high of 73 tomorrow. Yes, please, and yes again.

The pictures out of Alabama. There's nothing else to say except: The pictures out of Alabama. You draw a sky like this on a day like today and it feels impossible that something like that could also come out of the west. It makes a thing like siding a building feel like folly, feel, above all else, like a temporary act.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alabama Prayer.

We picked up one storm overnight, maybe two, and the tailing edge of the front coming through this morning gave us what looked like another inch of hard rain as it built one last line of storms directly over us, but we're free and clear now, it seems, or close enough. The video out of Alabama is horrifying, makes it clear that weather is no hobby, makes me rethink those times i've stood in carports and on front porches celebrating storms coming in, trying to get close. This is playing on the reel in my head: how AMR and I would manage to carry two cats, a dog, and a Toad all at once, where we'd carry them to.

We'll be cleaned back out today, less humidified, higher sky, calmer breeze, weather that looks more like the docile azalea spring we always hope for. I'll be driving the Toad to the puppet show for some puppetry I can't get out of. We'll be carrying on what looks like our same lives. Friends and fans of weather, we're lucky. We got lucky again. And maybe that's how to think about it: stand out there, sure, and watch it come in—those times it's safe enough to, anyway—but know that every time you do, you're lucky. Nothing more than that. It's bigger than you are, which means there isn't any other answer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Storm Watch.

I was right, but the dog was righter: I guessed storms, but she knew what time. Not much on the radar, blue sky, beer in a bottle, and the dog snugs up to AMR on the front porch while the Toad hollers at Tupperware and sure enough, the neighbor's weather radio goes off, and we watch a storm that put down quarter-size hail where it hailed slide just to our west and north, dropping a good quarter-inch of rain in fifteen minutes here at 709 as it went by. This has been a spring of catastrophic storms that I've barely been able to mention at the forecast, but my god hang on down there in Alabama, in Georgia, and the dog's still not right here in NC, so: locals, sleep lightly. Has spring always been this big, and this is just the version of weather in the age of televised politics? Or are we getting bigger and badder as we heat the planet?

Hang on people, hang on, hang on. And watch the dogs.

High Humidity.

How it isn't raining right now strains the bonds of credulity, if there are such things. It should be at least laying into one of those morning-long tomato rains, steady gentle rainfall and ten degrees too warm to be comfortable and ten degrees too cool to get the A/Cs to kick on, leaving you stranded inside your house sitting on damp upholstery and watching the books swell and wondering if things would be better if you poured your coffee over ice. That or it should be dropping hailstones the size of hen eggs down on us. Something. Instead, the sun's breaking through once every twenty minutes or so, but for the most part the western sky's so gray that I'm checking the radar, checking the radar, and still there's nothing.

Left the windows down in the truck yesterday during a very brief puppet show showing. The sky was blue when I went in. While I was enjoying the sublime vagaries of undergraduate thesis defense, It poured for twenty minutes and then quit. Damp ride back home. Metaphor? Lesson from the gods? Simple meteorology? I've got the windows down now, trying to dry it back out. Coming soon to a forecast near you: a longish discourse on the vicious cycle.

I keep orbiting away from this, from everything, really—it's been a hard week for no good reason, and I find myself looking for ever simpler tasks. Six bags of cypress mulch around the new azaleas back there at the shed. Lawns to be mowed. Ferns to be hung and straightaway colonized by the house finches. A thing like sweeping appeals. Lining up the spoons in their drawers. This is the late spring. This is the between.

They've got our storm chances lower than I'd have them. Supposed to be 70 on Friday with all the gloriousness and rights and privileges attending thereunto. It ain't that now. Sometime between now and then, then, storms. Maybe today. So: truck windows. Something's going to have to get done about that, one way or the other. Somebody's probably going to have to pay attention to the weather.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Warm Mornings.

It's been too long since I've been at this: This is the refrain of the Toad, of the end of a term I'm not even teaching my way through, of the end of a novel I'm not finished with, of the doldrums—can we have doldrums this time of year?—of April. We weren't this way last week. We were full of cold rain, of bright cool days after that. Today we have graduation weather, though, hot and muggy and headed for the mid-eighties for sure, the air handler on the credit union building screaming away, the second one harmonizing from the church. The grass is tall. The weeds are in. The tomatoes, though, are also in, which is one way to measure. Maybe it's the only measure. If they weren't in I'd be prostrate on the porch, watching them wilt in their peat cups, wondering what the hell was coming next. Now I know: Tomatoes, hopefully, just out in front of the Yellow Death (called Early Blight by those with knowledge of such things; I have no knowledge—only gloom).

Forecast: storms Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, which means this may not be the week to side the gable end of the ongoing money sink that is the writing shed, though the time is nigh: my building permit's one-year anniversary rides closer, which means so too does the one horseman of the city apocalypse, stopping by to do whatever he does if I don't make it. One side. A couple hundred bucks of cedar. Then two hundred other tiny things, like caulking crown molding, but maybe they'll let me slide: If it didn't leak in what became the Raleigh storms, and if it didn't leak in our own smaller tornadoes the week before, then surely I've built to permit, no? No. Who knows. You never know. Every time it rains hard I go out there looking for water. Every time, knock on wood, it has thus far been dry.

I feel spent. Dried up. It's hot. I do have good tomatoes. There's that, then, if nothing else. The Toad went back to school this morning after a long spring break week. Quiet around here. I miss him, and I don't. He cut two teeth last week. Two more teeth. Put that in your almanac and smoke it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Blank Page.

Back home on the Piedmont, a slow Wednesday morning gives over to high haze, high clouds tracking through, and what I'd say was the surefire promise of storms later on if not for all the fancier folks saying our chances were slimmer than that. I'm returned from a two-day to St. Louis, to Webster Groves, to be more exact, city and town of tulips everywhere, everywhere. And tornadoes: Last year, flying out of Nashville in mid-April, a flight crew told us boarding passengers to hustle lest we not get out in front of the storm, lest we have to deplane and take shelter back in the terminal. Same same yesterday evening at Lambert Field, as we got out just in front of egg-sized hail, tornadoes, lightning, etc. Had not what happened in Raleigh happened last week, I'd say that it was good to live on this side of the mountains. But maybe April will seek you out wherever you are.

A draft—new and improved—to 10003. Less panic in this round. Maybe I'm not done, but I'm closer. Now the waiting. In the interim: Siding the last side of the shed addition, calling the city to come and say Yep, it's sided. Then the ceremonial burning of the building permit. Then the whatever else attends to such things. Then the casting around and looking for new projects, for next projects. Window trim in the building proper. Prime and paint the building proper. Think about a floor to go with all that subfloor. Maybe something simple, like planting impatiens, planting glads. It is that time.

The Toad naps. The clouds build in. It feels more than anything like summer out there, like something hung out to dry. I cut the back yard before I left. Never did get to the front. That'll be an adventure. Maybe I can just let it go another week and then hay it. Maybe I should procure a goat. So the fancies say our rain and storm chances are slim. I say: Maybe so, but don't put it entirely out of your mind. This hot, this humid—if it was August, I'd say no way, that we were headed for heartbreak, that the cracked ground would only crack more. But it's April. April has thus gone big.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tornado Outbreak.

The above is what we saw. Here is what Raleigh and folks down east saw. A neighbor down the street called it hours before it happened, during our long morning of odd light and hard wind. She grew up in Alabama and Tennessee, where things like this are a little more common. I only knew something wasn't right. She knew what kind of something.

It rained as hard as it can rain here, but that was about it. Tornadoes immediately south and immediately north and immediately east. Van Denton, doing the live play-by-play on WGHP, cried on-air as a storm came through High Point. It is never going to be good when the weatherman doesn't know what to do. I think he saw the radar and thought we were getting what Raleigh eventually got. Sixty tornadoes statewide, the national news says this morning. We made the national news. The sun came out twenty minutes after it quit raining. We had huge wind all afternoon, too, in all that sun. I want to have other things to say about this, but all those pictures of insulation in the trees— We were lucky. No way around it. Other folks were not.

Be careful out there, friends and fans of weather. Cultivate a healthy respect. Keep an eye always, always to the western sky, even on a scraped-clean bone-still day like this one.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heads Up.

They'd been saying tomorrow, but a quick look at the radar says we really might start to see overnight all that mess that's wrapped folks west of here sideways around their flagpoles, and night is never good—we're getting preapocalyptic warnings like we don't always get around here, and friends and relatives are sending hailstone pictures from Oklahoma and Atlanta—just last week, it seems, we had the storm of storms, and here we go once more. Maybe I don't well remember much pre-Toad. Maybe spring is always thus. Maybe the digital age enables panic at levels much more highly ratcheted than before. Still. I have not liked the look of the sky since mid-afternoon, and it was sunny then, but hazy and half-doomed out west. And this wind—this far in front of a storm—if this was a weather blog, I'd want to be in the business of warning folks without causing undue panic. I'd want to say, Something is not quite right in the breeze. It is not just the new sound of new leaves. Something is headed our way, and it is not the Toad's new teeth, nor his new fever, nor his fuss. The radar is lit yellow and red for hundreds of miles. Hunker down, I'd say. Know where your matches are. Have a plan. Find the leashes. You will never need any of this, but know it all just in case.

Here in the Gate City the wind goes on and on and so do the sirens, the trains, the traffic, the air handlers atop the state credit union building. We get ready. We eye our grills, our hand-hewn outbuildings. We sip on a wee dram. The clouds build in from funny directions, directions that have not that much to do with the wind. We prepare. It'll storm. We just don't know in what fashion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Unreliable Narrator.

We wake up early around these parts, and twice—let's do, as it turns out, count the Toad's midnight ninety-minute ride through various stages of sadness and complaint—but on the second time around we see what we have been seeing, which is that the forecast, ours or theirs or anyone else's, is essentially unreliable. Yesterday afternoon, briefly, we had what they'd been trying for 48 hours to give us: blazing sun and blooming azaleas and the smell of foolhardy projects out there on the edge of the wind. This morning, forecast for the same, we instead wake up to a muggy humidified post-drizzle June morning. Thunderstorms tonight, they say, but then they also did not say cold and fifty on Saturday. What do you want? A metaphor? I planted a fifteen-dollar azalea in what I thought two weeks ago was a fine spot; now my hostas, location and even existence of same erased by the the Toad, as they are pre-Toad, are coming right up through that plant. Give it an hour out there. Maybe we'll burn all this mess off and see the sky. Right now the sky is a plate set down over the top of the bowl of the world. Too much? Too bad. I've already been up twice today.

For those of you scoring at home: Kwanzaan cherry, cardinals, unspecified woodpecker, coffee, laundry, novel, shirt in need of ironing, Braves under .500, yard about to want mowing again, dog in various stages of limp and shuffle, coffee again.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Remember: Spring.

Little gorgeous after-dark thunderstorm nobody saw coming. It was raining before it was on the radar. We're going to need to get the fine instruments tuned to the correct season around these parts.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Interrupt Us.

Friends and fans of weather, a Thursday drive to Conway, SC, is made mainly of the pale greens and pale reds of new leaves, plus dogwoods blooming in the understory. Occasional scent of cows, of mown grass. Bright high sky. Add to that a fine meal with fine persons and a reading if not full of then at least peopled with 20-year-olds choosing to hear the reading rather than engage in coitus in the tall spring grass with other 20-year-olds, and you have a not-terrible day. Not at all. I have been to a bar and seen the Daredevils of Comedy. At that same bar I have seen Acoustic John. I hope those 20-year-olds have since had enough sense to start doing at least something in the tall grass. One of the bases, at least. I mean, holy hell it was nice out there today. If I had been 20, and if I had known other persons who were 20, I would not have gone to see some dude read from some thing. I would have been doing everything I could have thought of to end up in the tall grass. Or any grass, really.

As for Acoustic John, one wonders who will bed him down in the tall grass. As for the Daredevils of Comedy: though horrible, they seemed to have a reasonable chance of bedding one another down post-show.

This is spring, people. We don't deserve such a thing. East of the Appalachians and south of the Washington Monument we do not really have winter like the rest of the country does, and yet we still get this. Down here in SC the azaleas are in full-out bloom. We're a little behind that back in the 2740X area of concern, but we'll get there. It is spring in Conway. It's a hell of a thing to see up close.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morning After.

Tree damage everywhere, litter in the streets, roofs blown mainly off on the way to the puppet show—that might have been the best storm since the hail fiasco of May 2008, when all of everything got cut to pieces. There was also the December 2003 ice storm, which was when I first lived in this neighborhood, and when I last saw this many tree limbs in the streets. There was also the Friendly Avenue gustnado of 1999. And we were lucky last night. Folks all over everywhere else around here got a lot worse.

I went to bed thinking the radar was saying we were fine, and then 3 a.m. turned up with continuous lighting and what my neighbor is saying were 85 mph winds, and though I'm not quite ready to trust that, let's certainly say we saw something close to that throughout the 2740X storming area, and almost surely they saw it in full force down Wendover out east of town, where this evening back home from the puppet show there were still traffic lights out, still roofing materials in the road. Trees blown right down in the medians. Siding off the houses. That was a storm. I got up to see if we needed to be in the basement, and by the time Lanie Pope over at WXII—still at work at 3 a.m.—was telling us there seemed to be a tornado on the ground in Sunset Hills, which is only a gearshift or two away from the Forecast HQ, the wind had died down here, the dogwood was still standing, and I went back to bed. I only got good and scared after it was already over. And that was only for the Toad, who never once stirred.

To learn to love a storm that could take the wee boy out: I'll need another couple go-arounds before I settle back in, I think, before it feels like it used to feel. Before, it was just me. Now it's this dead-to-the-world sleeping boy who does not yet need to have a maple limb come through his ceiling. That gets plenty good later on, some time in his tenth or eleventh year, when it might be astonishing instead of petrifying. For now, he's sleeping again, having been this morning backpacked through the aftermath of whatever the hell that was, resting his one hand on my shoulder and making his small noises that surely, surely must mean something, must mean astonishment of some sort or kind.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring Rites.

The lawnmower started. I had been thinking, even though we're raiding the couch cushions for lunch money over here, that this would be the year we'd have to break down and buy a new mower, but now I know: I'll never buy a new mower. You cannot break that mower. I've worked at it steadfastly since 2003, and it wasn't new then. It came with the house. The old house. Things I have done or left undone in regards to that mower: Mice, hail, wind, cold, heat, blunt force trauma, rust, fog, snow, ants. I've never checked the oil, much less changed it. I have struck rocks with it and struck it with rocks. And yet it new-season started more easily this year than any other I can remember. I am given to love for things. I know this. Still. I may love the mower.

The yard, on the other hand, is another story. I have neglected it, and, even mowed, it shows.

Friends and fans of the abrupt and violent change of season, I could go on here at length in the eighty-degree single-digit April wind (with gusts surely into the 20 and 30 mph range), but I think that I instead must say: if you live west of the mountains, please call east to let us know what's still in your yard and what's in Oz. If you live here in the ANYLF viewing area, tarp down your mowers. Tie down everything else. The fancies are saying we may see see 60 mph straight-line winds, which would be plenty enough to take out deck chairs and bird feeders, to say nothing of trees and suspect roofs. It is nearly eight in the evening and the still-lit western sky is absolutely empty, but the radar looks nasty, and the probability matrix bullshit that the entity formerly known as the Weather Channel—have you seen that thing lately? Who do they think they are? Why does the weather have to get sexified? This is the beauty of the weather: It starts off sexy. It does not need more music than they used to inflict on it back in the glory days of, say 2003, when the mower was a little shinier and the Weather Channel was a little weatherier—anyway, the You-Are-Or-Were-Here DEFCON Death Star Duck-and-Cover 2011 SituStorm GraphiScare thing they have over there says we are lined up for a noisy night. A dog-in-the-bed night, and perhaps the first enaction (isn't that a word?) of the Scared-Toad-in-the-Bed policy, active only during active storms. We don't even know if he's scared of storms yet. But I have pushed for a policy just in case.

Let's let that be that. Eighty today. Sixty tomorrow. The space between those two numbers says the storms they're saying are coming must be coming. Y'all be safe out there on the Piedmont. Lock the windows so they don't rattle and bang and wake the babies. Once we get through tomorrow night's frost, the rest of the week looks positively springlike. I love a good storm. Knowing it's give or take my responsibility to keep the Toad from being hailed upon shifts that math around some, but I still do love a good storm.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Not Ours.

What is it Galvin says? So much wind for all this sky? No: I got it wrong. I'd remembered it that way, but it's what a small sky for so much snow; what little snow for so much ground. Failing that, it can be Perhaps you didn't realize/anything can happen under a sky like this. No matter: we're cool out there, the clouds are strange and foreign, and we're seeing all at once all the wind there is. No, this is not Wyoming, not the country of those above fragments, but it's where we live, and on a day like today, the size of the land—even with our trees to cut the horizon at a reasonable place, and even with those trees to break that selfsame wind—is making itself known. This wind is from somewhere else, somewhere far away. This isn't our wind. We've got weather that does not belong to us.

Here. Small Countries. Try that on for your Saturday. Watch for frost later on. Listen to the windows bang around in their frames.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Action Items.

Baseball. A chilly Friday. New green edging its way onto most everything out there but for the oaks. A yard in need of cutting. Flowerbeds overrun by hens and chicks or chicks and hens or dollarweed or nutgrass or whatever all this new spring invasion is every year. Past the halfway point on the latest revision. Six different colors of ink pens back there. The end of the morning fire. Kindling ready for tomorrow. Cardboard and scrap draft and matches.

Toad home from toadcare and sleeping, dog done barking out the front door and sleeping.

Pilgrims. The old joke about showers and flowers.

Maybe I can teach myself to tune a lawnmower. Maybe I can teach myself to flush a radiator. Maybe I can teach myself to pay the bills on time.

Sixty degrees this afternoon if we get fortunate and these clouds burn themselves out. Otherwise, we'll see that tomorrow, better than that on Sunday, and by Monday, we'll be riding the porches again. Needs: some new ballcaps, some new work boots. Cash money. Something in the pantry for supper. Wants: see the previous list. That and five o'clock and a cold beer and nowhere at all to be.