Thursday, February 20, 2014

Weather, or not

Since mid-morning, I've been watching the precipitation change from rain/freezing rain to sleet to snow to rain/freeing rain to sleet to snow. I'm sure you get the picture. We've already had an above average snowfall this Winter, no doubt to compensate for our snows that lasted into May of last year. This, plus some reading and thinking I've been doing recently, has started me thinking about how closely weather and a sense of place are related. No one would ever confuse Death Valley with any part of Minnesota, especially with Tower and Embarrass vying for coldest place in the continental U.S. But then, I've always associated cactus with such places as Death Valley and never with Minnesota. Turns out I was wrong. We're home to prickly pear at several different locations, mostly in southwestern Minnesota. If I stop to think about it, much of the basis for Minnesota's four separate biomes derives from long term weather, also known as climate. Southeast Minnesota gets almost twice as much annual precipitation as does the northwest part of the state (deciduous forests in the SE, prairie in the NW). Much of what I've been reading recently, that has me thinking about all this, is something I discovered online, Windfall: A Journal of Poetry of Place. It emphasizes the Pacific Northwest, where they also get snow and ice storms. I'm thinking it would be great if Minnesota and the upper Midwest had something comparable.
Minnesota's anual average precipitation

Ice Storm Paralyzes City 
Poets hope for extremes in weather—
It’s part of the job.
Sure, sure, antennae of the race,
Speaking the eternal verities,
Poets yearn for spring, 
But spring comes too soon and too easily.
Daffodils now in February,
And Portland still hasn’t had a big snow,
A big freeze and silver thaw.
We haven’t yet known we’re alive 
By seeing the world’s heart stop:
The crack and whoosh of a fallen branch
Too loaded with ice to hold,
The rifle shot cry of wood too cold
To stay silent— 
We hope for the brittle hard world of legendary winter
To stop commerce and the quotidian
And in the deathly tranquil city to tell us:
Look at your breath: You, are, alive.
Look at how little you need to survive

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