Don’t see this kind of thing, all that often: A Double Rainbow

This afternoon, we had weather of storm, nice, storm, nice, storm… You get the picture. Weather typical of where I grew up in Western Washington. But today brought a special reward: a clear double rainbow.

This is one of those things where the light has to be just right, and the contrast good enough for a camera to capture it.

It was invisible only moments later when the clouds to the Southwest parted and the Sun bought the primary rainbow into full brilliance.

And then it was all gone.

Transitory moments are part of our existence; they are a great part of what we are. THIS is why I am forever urging you to get outside, go outside, no matter what the weather; and just be a part of what is happening in Nature.

God created it all; he still beckons and says, “Look what I have to show you, my child”.

The birds have returned!

The last couple of nights, I’ve heard a Ring-Necked Pheasant in the upper meadow. Today, I saw him in the back meadow, looking along the fence, picking up seeds from the dead blackberries.

He reminds me of the ‘lot bell’ that we had where I was an Apprentice Mechanic: we had hoses strung across the lot, and the bell would ‘ding’ when a potential Customer drove in…

This particular pheasant shrieks whenever someone drives by on our dirt road. He kind of reminds me of a temperamental character who always yells, “Get off my lawn!”

Meanwhile, a couple nights ago, I saw a murder of crows, chasing an eagle. But the eagle, zooming along the edge of the Ravine, executed a powerful, graceful, and gorgeous wing-over maneuver that just took my breath away. And the murder of crows could not have a prayer of following the eagle.

Although they all objected loudly, they lost the eagle.

And tonight, the eagle came back to perch on one of our oak trees. The crows were still loudly in pursuit, trying to drive him off. You can always tell when there’s an eagle on the vicinity, from the caphocophany of the crows. Even so, I managed to grab a shot of him, waiting patiently for the crows to give him space.

He’s in the top of that spindly oak, and you can see the crows, giving him a hard time.

A few moments later, he flew off; the crows giving a half-hearted chase, as they knew they’d won. For the moment.

The cold and the rains may have finally let up, for a while. And the raptors have returned, hunting mice and voles; bringing a balance to life on the side of the mountain.

What We Did Before NOAA 

Too often, we take for granted these things which technology has brought us.

You know, it’s great to have a fairly accurate, hour-by-hour forecast; especially in an area of the world where it’s been impossible to have any kind of accuracy in a weather forecast. And look at this, it’s on the phone!

But isn’t it all too easy to take it for granted?

Tonight whilst sitting the sunset, my nose and ears were getting really chilled, and I just knew from old folklore that we were going to get a frost tonight. The sky was clear.

All the things I’ve seen from so many decades of watching the weather, and those bits of folklore passed down from my grandparents say that we will get a hard frost tonight.

I was reminded of those times when we had ‘weathermen’, and not those mere readers of the computerized forecasts from NOAA. The local NBC affiliate tried a new idea instead of the typical scene of having a guy standing in front of a map. I still remember “KING’s Cartooning Weatherman, Bob Hale”. Bob could whip out a finished illustration in the five -to ten minutes they gave him during the evening newscast, and all while going through the area forecasts. Keep in mind, we had several different forecasts that had to be done: The Olympics, Metropolitan Area, Puget Sound and Strait of Juan de Fuca,  Costal, and finally Southwest Washington forecasts. Even found an old photo of Bob on set:

First thing to understand here is that I live in the Pacific Northwest; one of the VERY most difficult regions in the world for weather forecasting.

In those older times, there were no such things as satellites. TIROS was launched in the early sixties; an East coast observation satellite. Weather was the most blackest of black arts.

It was easier on the East coast: there were more ships at sea and the Atlantic was more predictable. In the Midwest: you could look at was happening in Canada, and then add a couple of days.

But for us, there were no weather satellites; no photos of cloud formations, no idea of what was coming; other than what was sketchily available from the few barometric and sky observations of a very few offshore mariners.

It had been that way forever. Technology began to creep up on the problem, but all we did was add some sophistication and consistency to observations. Weather balloons began to be used; and in the case of a possible big storm, the big guns of sounding rockets were used.

But no matter how much the technology of those days could be applied, predicting our weather remained one of the hardest things in the world to do accurately. But there were a few whose minds could see and interpret the maps with consistent accuracy; and such insight was a Gift.

In the early seventies, I had a radio show, and I had my best-est of all best friends – Dan, whom I still consider my best friend of all time, on the show, to give his forecasts. In those days, we used terms seldom heard now; things like onshore flow, high or low pressure-induced wind pattern vortexes, and others. The thing is, Dan was right, almost all the time.

I still don’t know how he did it, but he did. And this was before the inception of NOAA and all their sophisticated satellites and computer models. Dan’s amazing mind on my little radio show beat all those TV weather forecasters almost all the time. I need to say this: There is a gift of some things of prescience about weather, and Dan had it.

And tonight, I just wanted to remember and to give credit (albeit delayed) where credit is due.

Thanks, Dan. Thanks for being my best friend.

I don’t know how many others appreciated your gift, but I do. And I wanted to make sure you knew that.

Socked-in Days

Our temperatures here on the side of the mountain have finally moderated to something like a year’s normal for this date. Our local weather expert notes that we’ve had roughly FIVE INCHES more precipitation / rain so for this year than normal, also.

There’s still stubborn, isolated patches of snow here and there, but I can now be outside without having to wear my heaviest coat.

Back in November, I posted a pic of our favourite local weather predictor, a wooly-bear caterpillar; his amber stripe covering most of his body. And he was right: we’ve had an unusually cold, snowy, Winter.

It’s not over yet: we have snow in the forecast for the middle of next week.

And today, we’ve been socked-in with clouds so thick you could barely see the trees across the back meadow. Rain, coming hard at times, only added to the depressing bleakness. Its cold distraction wasn’t welcome early this morning when I took a big plate of rolled-up sandwiches down to the church for a funeral in the afternoon.

The damp this afternoon drove me to our little sunroom this evening so I could sit and read, practice the presense of God, and try to listen just a bit. And look what was waiting for me…

Again in the Psalms, from Psalm 37:7…

Be still in the presence on the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

So I spent some time in sharing what was in my heart: worries about being out of work so close to retirement, health for my wife, (whom you may recall has Congestive Heart Failure), wondering if I have reached the end of my race, or if there is other service for me to gladly perform.

I laid all these concerns at the base of his throne, but I am the first to admit that my hands won’t easily let go of them.

In trying to do so, I turned to other reading, trying to ignore the inability to see anything outside.

But patience with the weather paid off! For bare moments, we got a break, and the River of Clouds was there-if just for a moment-shouting, “God IS!!”

I grabbed the closest thing that would make a picture, for this lasted only moments. (You should be able to click to enlarge.)

And it was a tremendous lift to my spirits.

May it be so for yours.

I’m really, REALLY, ready for the winter storms to be over…

Almost a month to the day, I wrote something similar while sitting in the home office and looking out the window.  And here I am today, feeling the same thing.

Thursday through Saturday, we watched an ice storm roll in and cover everything with cold slipperiness. All the windows on the North side of the house were turned into pebble glass, and it began to feel as if we were living an endless scene from Frozen.

Saturday brought enough thawing so that we could at least see out the windows, so the icy claustrophobia began to lift. Weather reports brought hope that perhaps today (Sunday) we might be able to go to church, and then to the store to pick up a few would-be-nice-to-haves.

That’s not happening.

This morning we have heavy snow showers, and as of the time to get up for church, about a half-inch accumulation. Remembering that there’s probably still a layer of ice underneath that, we’re staying put. Again.

Time to finish touching up my resume’ before I send it to some friends for proofing, and to begin to put together my new website. Last time I was out of work, I hand-coded my entire website; let’s see if I can avoid that, this time.

We have lots to be thankful for: the power is on, which means we have water to drink, and the heat is running, so we’re warm. It’s easy to ‘be still and know that God is’ when it’s this quiet inside and outside.

The snow has let up enough for the trees at the edge of the meadow to show themselves a bit. Those deck railings yesterday had 8″ icicles hanging from them:

Maybe we’re finally, finally, getting a break in the weather…

Ten days ago, I’d posted that it looked like the weather was finally moderating.

I was wrong.

Meanwhile, we’ve had yet another ice storm move through, with us locked-in for another few days. It’s been so cold and the humidity so low for so long that the doors on the South side of the house don’t latch correctly. The weather has taken them about 1/4″ out of square.

Well today, it actually seems to be breaking. Yesterday evening, the temperature was actually above freezing for the first time in, I think, three weeks. It’s been crawling its way upward for the last couple days, and yesterday it finally broke past freezing. The upper deck was the first thing to show it. That patch on the middle of the top step is one of the few spots it’s safe to stand upon:

There’s a certain relief in seeing all of this ice and snow get melted: an end to watching where I step with such extreme care, no more making sure that there’s little exposed skin when stepping outside.

But I’ll also miss the excuse for being quietly sequestered at home with my wonderful wife, the distance from the hustle-bustle of the modern world, and the quietness of mind granting me an ease with which I can settle into a good book.

It’s also been an exceptionally good time to practice the presence of God daily. To quietly pray, and to listen.

Okay, I’m ready for the winter storms to be over

Since the second week of December, we’ve been in a continuous cold snap. It’s been a ‘friendly’ kind of chill, easily tolerable; you just dress for it and it’s no problem. It’s when the weather turns harsh that it gets tough to take. You can always stand it for a day or two, because the latest storm will blow itself out. Most nights here on the side of the mountain have been mid-teens to low 20s, days mid-20s. The last few days the temps have almost hit single-digits just before sunup. It’s been so cold the last few days that I’ve had the pellet stove going constantly, to supplement the heat pump and help keep it from using the expensive auxiliary heat.

A pause for a White Christmas note here: None this year, either. I’ve been living in this part of the country for more than 63 years, and I only remember TWO true White Christmases. Usually we get snow, then it’ll melt right before Christmas, and then the day or so after Christmas we get a good bit of snow. That was the story again this year, only that snow is still with us: We still have about 3″ of snow left from the storm that came along just after Christmas, topped by a half inch of hail from a thunderstorm a week or so ago. It makes the driveway just plain treacherous.

Yeah, I’m ready for this to moderate.

Meanwhile, I’m appreciating the beauty of the winter for what it is, trying to “remember not to forget” (as my Mom used to say) to thank God for the ability to see this with my own eyes and experience it in person.  The other night Dara had been running around and cavorting like a puppy in the snow, and I was trying to capture her in the midst of her joy:

Let’s talk about ice storms. This region is famous for them.

A couple weeks ago, we had the worst ice storm I’ve seen up here in 26 years. The evergreens survived just fine (as soon as the sun comes out, they absorb the heat and can shed the ice quickly), but there has been a lot, an awful lot, of broken branches and branchfall from the oaks and alders everywhere around; my one neighbor across the road has lost a lot of wood. You have to stay away from those trees, because they are on deadly hair triggers. The branch can snap and bounce in any direction without any prior indication it’s going to move. Going up to my upper meadow right now is not recommended, as that stuff is invisible overhead, and will snap and fall to the ground without warning. Usually the birches here and there will just bend and do fine, but this time almost every one of them has the top broken out of it. The trailer is parked in the upper meadow, but it’s safe in an open spot much closer to the house.

The winds are what everyone talks about, because the Gorge is famous for its winds. Our winds have been moderate; about 20-25 knots constant, gusts past 45. There have been some nights where we’ve had real wind – it gets so loud in the lee side of the house, it’s as if you’re standing in the middle of the surf at the beach. You actually had to raise your voice to be understood. Last night was one of these. The gusts tend to hit so hard on that lee side of the house, it sounds like a body falling against the outside of the house.

Yesterday morning, the winds had really come up, with intermittent hard snow showers. You can tell the weather is breaking because the winds aren’t maintaining a constant speed, but instead are gusting wildly and then lulling. Gusts were hitting something past 60; they hit and then back off so quickly that my anemometer can’t speed up fast enough to measure them. But you see an 80-year fir out there at the edge of the ravine bending and swaying like a birch and it does give you a little bit of pause.

I’d let Dara out to go do her morning potty and I think she got seriously cold. She came in, got pets for being a good girl, then disappeared. I got to looking around for her, wondering where she went, and here she’d hopped up on the bed next to my wife, with her chin on my wife’s elbow. The expression here says it all: “What…”

We tend to get powder snow here that drifts up quite a bit; the wind is blowing the snow around so much today that it’s like living inside a snow globe.

We’ve been snowed in a few times, but my neighbor a couple houses up is a farmer and tends to get cabin fever. He’ll stand it only so long, then we’ll hear him coming and working the road with his D8 CAT. One time when he was plowing, I took a cup of hot coffee out to him and asked him how the drifts were, up at his place (he’s a little more exposed than we are) and he said that although he’d had the CAT plugged in, he’d had to shovel out the cab of it so he could find the seat to sit down and uncover the dash so he could get it started. That’s a drift of roughly eight feet deep.

Back to the present. Our weather is supposed to finally moderate, and get into the mid-30s. That would be a relief, if for nothing more than to be able to walk around outside without fear of falling. But we are supposed to go through an ice storm first. And late last night, the predicted ice storm hit. This morning, all the windows on the North side (the Ravine side) of the house are iced over. All the glass looks like that pebble glass that’s used in bathroom windows which lets in light but preserves modesty. It can give you a touch of claustrophobia if you think about it a bit too much.

Yeah, I’m ready for this to moderate.