Saturday, April 29, 2006

Holiday weather

Has it ever occurred to you how closely we associate specific holidays with certain weather? "White Christmas" is the most prominent example - the concept, not the song, though the latter certainly reinforces the general idea. "May all your Christmases be white" - to whom does that actually apply?

Well, it leaves out all the millions of people who live in the southern hemisphere, for a start. The only way Australians can have a white Christmas is if they choose a beach with white sand for their holiday picnic! But even in the northern hemisphere, and not only in the temperate zones, snowfall at Christmas is frequently more the exception than the rule. That's certainly the case here in Germany, except for those few areas that are located in a higher altitude with more constant cold temperatures.

Now why on earth am I writing about this topic at the end of April, you may wonder? Bear with me, I'm getting there.

The next holiday on the calendar that I associate with a particular weather condition is Good Friday. It is one of the few holidays on which I don't mind rain and clouds - somehow, it seems appropriate. It's a quiet kind of day, so no one really cares if it's spent indoors.

Easter is a different story - we want sunshine and dry weather for hiding and finding eggs outside, don't we?! We don't always get it, but it's an ideal we hope for.

Next holiday (this one secular, and it may not be a holiday in your country) is May 1st. It's the International Day of Labour, a very important day in Communist countries but also for Socialist politicians and union organizations. Not that most people here celebrate it with that in mind - it's a day for outings and picnics, weather permitting. The beer gardens are open all day long, the streets and paths are crowded with bicycles and walkers, and everyone enjoys a work-free day for revelling in springtime. Alas, this year's weather forecast is daunting; even now, two days before the holiday, it's raining intermittently, there's a chilly wind blowing, and it looks more like getting worse than better.

Ascension Day, later in May, is a holiday here that has two faces - a church holy-day that has been taken as Father's Day as well. Not that the traditional way for the fathers to spend the day is with their families - they get together, go out into nature somewhere and drink all day long! Can you imagine what would be said if the mothers took Mother's Day off and went out carousing with their friends?!

Pentecost is one of the big two-day holidays here in Germany, but in this secularized society, few people remember the reason for it. It's just a conveniently longer weekend for short vacations, and as such, being at the end of May or early in June, warm and sunny weather is expected - and the chances are not too bad, though without guarantee.

The one holiday that we have which involves a national identity is the Day of German Unity on October 3rd. That has no particular weather association that I know of - most official celebrations are indoors, so it doesn't really matter. Good thing, as the weather in autumn is unpredictable.

A few more Catholic holidays are scattered throughout the year, but as I'm Protestant, they're just a day off to me and not associated with weather conditions. I am aware of processions that take place then, so I'm sure Catholics would have preferences there.

There's one American holiday that I associate with hot sunny weather - Independence Day, on the 4th of July! Picnics, parades, and fireworks demand that kind of summer day (though I remember sweating in marching band uniform back in high school!), and in the continental Midwest US summer, the chances are good.

I also have fond memories of Mayday, though it wasn't a holiday over there - do people still give each other the little baskets of flowers and/or sweets on that day?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"There's no such thing as bad weather..."

"...only inappropriate clothing," a German saying goes. Having a dog means I walk, every day, no matter what the weather, so a weatherproof jacket and ditto walking shoes are vital. The advantage of that fact is that I'm used to going out under (almost) all conditions; mere weather can't faze me! That doesn't mean I always like it though...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A month for all seasons

Yesterday I thought I must have blinked and missed spring - it was as warm as we often wish our summer days were, upper 20°s (Celsius, of course - should be about 80s Fahrenheit). Considering that this month began with icy coldness (I don't remember if the last snowfall was late March or early April), we seem to have gone through three seasons in as many weeks. Then this morning had some similarity with autumn - it was foggy after an early shower, with the sun struggling (unsuccessfully, so far) to come through, and when I walked under blossoming fruit trees, the petals floated to the ground like tiny falling leaves.

I hope it doesn't pass too quickly - I love spring! So much so, actually, that I plan to have it twice this year. How? Easy - by spending part of October in the southern hemisphere, in Australia and New Zealand. I hope that doesn't mean getting all the rain twice...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"Bilbo woke up with the early sun in his eyes"

Sunshine in the morning really makes a day start right, doesn't it?! Today I was reminded of the above line from Tolkien's The Hobbit. It's much easier to wake up and get up when it's light and bright, and my before breakfast dog walk was a pleasure, not a chore.

I know there are scientific explanations for the positive psychological effect of light and sunshine on humans, but who needs them to realize that we feel better when it's bright?! It's enough just to enjoy it when it's there, to hope for it to come back when it's dark and rainy occasionally - and it helps during those times to remember that the lovely greens and bright colors of the plants, flowers and trees could not exist if we had no rain.

All sun makes a desert. But none would also destroy life. As so often, it's the mixture and balance that makes the right conditions for living. Which brings us back to the rainbow...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

It was a warm and sunny day

OK, I guess that doesn't create a suspenseful murder mystery atmosphere like "It was a dark and stormy night" does, but it's sure nicer to have!

The air is warm enough to allow the scents of spring to waft: flowers, earth, freshly mown lawn, and the first open-air barbecue. I love this time of year; you can watch the leaves growing and drown in the Yellow Invasion of daffodil rivers alongside the streets and in the yards. I am a notorious toucher of soft new leaves, and my hands are often running along hedges and bushes when I walk. Pure delight for all senses! (Well, with the exception of the manure the local farmers have distributed on their fields - I could do without that particular smell...)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Where's global warming when you need it?!

Can someone explain why temperatures are allegedly too high in the winter, but it's much too cold so far this spring?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

April showers...

...bring May flowers, so it's said. I'm glad we don't have to wait until next month for flowers; their cheerful colors brighten up even these rainy days.

Spring's triumphant triumvirate is omnipresent - yellow daffodils, blue hyacinths, and red tulips are perennial favorites. But there's more:

Yellow primulas (or is it primuli?), pansies, crocuses (almost gone now), forsythia bushes...

Purple pansies, primulas, violets...

Pinkish violet heather...

White star magnolias...

...and of course green, everpresent in our area of the world. Lawn, winter grains, evergreen bushes and trees, and now leaves, shoots and buds newly appearing.

Rainbow colors down on earth that outlast temporary weather conditions - I'm so glad flowers exist!

Oh, and weather conditions were just right for a rainbow yesterday - a beautiful one, with a second partial rainbow faintly echoing its colors.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Whither weather nick?

When I chose the theme for this blog, I decided to create a nickname for myself that goes with it. My other internet identity is in a specific context, and I decided that this should be, to use a Pythonesque turn of phrase, "something completely different".

My first ideas for weather-related nicks came from songs: "Stormy Weather", "Sunny", "Windy". Not bad, but each is one-sided, and my life, like the weather, consists of many contrasting elements. "Partly Cloudy" was a possibility that seemed more suitable, though it does emphasize the negative aspect, clouds, too much for my taste. Besides, a friend said it makes me sound rather shady! ;)

"Punxatawny Filly" was another name that occurred to me - from a movie that relies heavily on weather for its story, and that I always enjoy seeing. I liked the humor implied in that one, but still didn't feel like it was exactly what I wanted.

Finally I remembered a thought I've pondered for quite awhile. A rainbow, I realized some time ago, is a phenomenon that occurs only when sunshine and rain meet. (I know: "Elementary, my dear Watson", but superficial knowledge of a fact is not the same as grasping the deep truth of it.) One without the other does not produce that outburst of colored light that fascinates me every time I see one. That was it, I knew - precisely what I wanted to say about myself and weather-related, all in one!

But would I be able to register that as a name? There are so many people here that popular words are likely taken already, and I do not care to be "Rainbow123". More importantly, I realized that I am not a rainbow - and do not want to be one! A rainbow is ethereal, elusive - a trick of the light that can't be grasped. No matter how hard you try, you'll never find the end of it, so it doesn't matter whether or not there's a pot of gold there.

No, I'm not a rainbow, but I can see them. I want to look up and see more than the dark clouds and the precipitation that are currently overhead. I want to look up, not down, and see more than the puddles and the next steps lying ahead of my feet. I want those feet firmly planted on the ground, though my head is in the stars. I want to rejoice in the beauty of bright colors that make creation so wonderful.

More than that - I want to sub-create. I want to capture the fleeting moment, to make it visible for longer than the blinking of an eye, to make it tangible - to have and to hold. I want to take a rainbow and make it into a work of art for myself, family, friends, the world to see.

To see and to catch rainbows, then to share them with others - what a purpose in life!

I am RainbowCatcher.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Spring cleaning weather

The sun is shining and a chilly wind is blowing - it's the kind of weather that looks better from the inside than it feels outside. Outdoor activities are fine as long as you wear a windbreaker and keep moving, but the real way to make the best use of this weather is by spring cleaning indoors.

What is it that makes us (at least many of us) want to clean up at this time of the year? I think the light is a major factor. The days are longer, the sun shines brighter, and we suddenly see the dirty windows, the dusty furniture, and the cobwebby corners. (Oh, and the blue metallic paint on my car really glistens when the layer of grime has been washed off!) Of course the light also gets those hormones flowing that demand renewal and rebirth, making us more active, so add those to the mixture. Psychological explanations abound; I won't even go into them here.

The proximity of a holiday does its part as well. Not only does Easter prompt a flurry of decorations, but it often means company - in my case, family members who no longer live here will be home for the weekend. And they're not only coming themselves, but also bringing their special someones along. That gives me a vital reason to finish projects, get everything spic and span, and cook and bake besides. To say nothing of the additional church services, which keep a musician busy for Christian holidays.

Hmm, I guess that explains the phenomenon of spring tiredness, doesn't it?!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Weather records…

...have a short shelf life. Just four years ago, the Elbe River here in Germany flooded, and it was called the flood of the century. Admittedly, it's a bit risky to set up a record like that in 2002, so early in the new century. Now the inevitable has happened. This spring the river is flooding higher than it did then. So what do you call it? The new flood of the century? The real flood of the century? The even better flood of the century? The whiter than white flood of the century? The flood of the millenium? The problem with the latter is, the millenium is just as new as the century, and it has to last a lot longer!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Is weather blogworthy?

Of course it is! Weather is a time-honoured conversational opening, not only in England. It's a neutral start for talking to strangers that can lead to more, yet doesn't oblige either speaker. It's a common factor to people all over the world - we all experience weather, some more directly, some less. And above all, it is something that is not man-made, so that remarks about it need not be taken personally.

Weather begins conversations that can develop in many directions. It can be a highly political topic - global warming anyone?! - or deeply personal (the aches and pains that often plague people with rheumatism when the wind's from a certain direction, for example). It can serve as a take-off for philosophical remarks, be the subject of jokes and puns, and give us a vent for personal feelings.

Weather is the subject of songs and poems, of movies, and an important part of many books. But the most important reason for my choice of this blog theme is - weather is a vital part of my everyday life! It often determines my activities (outdoor or indoor today?) and influences my mood (feeling bright and energetic or down in the dumps). As a walker, rain or shine, I'm directly subjected to it every day.

Will this blog be a weather report? Yes and no - I'm sure it will include much more than that, but that's where I'll start. I hope you'll enjoy reading it!