In Defense of Clouds and Snow

Let me pose a question: why in the wide world of weather reporting are cloudy days so indisputably deemed as “depressing, miserable, ugly”, or whatever other demeaning description that’s in their repertoire? I have concluded that these meteorologists have compiled their limited vocabulary from a Miriam-Webster lexicon, whose definition of clouds reads: “something that has a dark, lowering, or threatening aspect”. Well, the way I look at it, these are purely objective observations, that is, clouds are colored gray, and gray connotes depression. Now, don’t get me wrong, I relish the sunshine as much as anyone else during the spring and summer months…I am actually a sun-worshiper. But during the winter months, that’s something else. Take, for example, that low-on-the-horizon, in-your-face, glaring sun that literally blinds you every time you turn a corner. What a nuisance, and a hazard at times. I find the sun particularly annoying when I’m biking, since I don’t have the advantage of a sun visor.

Oh, how I love to bike on those cool, calm, misty days, when the moisture seems to cleanse my face. It’s a great feeling, believe me. To me, the low, hovering winter clouds give me a feeling of protection and serenity, like a “warm” blanket overhead (it’s a meteorological fact that clouds contain the earth’s heat from escaping into the atmosphere). When I say protection, I mean it in the sense that clouds offer a peacefulness as opposed to the harsh and unforgiving atmosphere of a cold wind (a blue norther’ in Texas terms) on a clear day. The Native-Americans had a word for just such a phenomenon, which translated meant a “hard” day, a lonely day. On the other hand, the Irish speak of a calm, cool, cloudy day as being “soft”, sort of like being at peace with the world. Is it a coincidence that I am of both Irish and Indian descent? When you get right down to it, it is purely subjective… how one feels about what’s around him rather than what one simply observes in a pragmatic manner. Look at it this way: winter should feel like winter, and summer should feel like summer, and so on. I know, people in Cleveland and Buffalo would say, “Take your hyperbolic hypothesis and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine”. I wouldn’t blame ’em one bit.

One other aspect of winter comes to mind, and that’s the rare phenomenon known as fog. This, to me, is the quintessence of a calm world, like an envelope of moist stillness that has quietly descended on Mother Earth, creating an ambience of peacefulness. A quotation comes to mind: “Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness”. I’m sure the frequent users of jetports and freeways would debunk my observations as a bunch of balderdash. The inevitable reaction to “bad weather” is how it will slow down commuter traffic…what a crock.

And when disruptive conditions arise, if it’s not rain or fog, then snow is the culprit. It all boils down to “inconvenience”. Why do people look on the dark side of the white stuff? I perceive snow as a fresh white canvas waiting to be painted by footprints, angel wings, and sleigh tracks. Snow is the great equalizer, shielding an unkempt yard from a manicured lawn, and camouflaging a pot-marked Chevy Nova next to a shiny BMW. Everything is clean and whitewashed, ready to be imprinted with individual strokes. A good snowfall also offers an opportunity to get acquainted with one’s neighbors, helping out with the shoveling, or jump-starting a frozen battery… people you’ve lived next door to and never met. And certainly not least of all, snow is an argosy of moisture for trees, especially the evergreens (ten inches of snow is equivalent to one inch of rain). We are so all-consumed with getting from point A to point B in record-setting time, we think of snow as a blight on our time-table. Hey, slow down, and enjoy the flakes as they flutter down.

We seem to have forgotten to appreciate the miracles of nature. Our senses of what’s beautiful have been dulled by urban living… the pavement beneath our tires has to be void of any inclemency at all times. This country revolves around the almighty automobile. Precipitation of any kind, once acclaimed as bountiful for an agrarian society, has now become the bane of interstate travel. A sad testimony as to how we view our world. Oh well, we’ll always be at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I’m signing off now, praying for sunshine in July, and clouds in December.


William C. Early © 1999