The cliched cliche in writing is “It was a dark and stormy night.’’
And I mean cliched cliche.
There is even a famous writing contest, the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest based on that phrase. The contest is named for Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, who used the phrase as the opening to his 1830 novel, “Paul Clifford.’’
I find it unfortunate, because it has made writing about the weather very difficult, nearly impossible. Yet, at least in the outdoors world, my world, the weather is often the No. 1 impact on a story. If you are sitting in a deer stand with 40 mph winds, that’s the story. Same, usually, if it is 35 degrees and raining and your ass is sopping wet.
That’s makes for a writing quandary. You don’t want to sound cliched and be writing about the weather, but the weather matters.
BTW, I get really tired of people who complain how much importance the weather has on local television newscasts and news radio. Frankly, I think those people are trying to prove they are cooler than slugs like myself who find the weather important.
The weather matters greatly to many of us. There’s a reason Tom Skilling is a god. There’s a reason WBBM-AM continues with the weather on the 8s. It matters.
Take this morning, we had our first brush with frost, as you can see on the the roof of a car in the parking lot by the auto repair shop next to the bus barn downtown.
State climatologist Jim Angel had an interesting blog entry a couple days ago on frost. It explained a couple things that I think are important, including that official temperatures are taken 5 feet off the ground.
That explains how the official temperature was 38 this morning, but yet there was frost on the some cars and a smattering of frost in the grassy areas by the town pond.
There’s a more extended explanation of first frost dates in Illinois if you click here. With frost today in many areas, it pretty much is right on time.
I think the cold clamped down on wildlife.
The first animal or bird other than ourselves I heard or saw as Lady, our family’s mutt, and I rambled off was a belted kingfisher. I first heard it rattling as we neared the side rail separating the town from the wildness of the town pond. Then a couple more times as we neared the bridge over the neckdown between the two old clay pits. But I never saw it.
Spectacular dawn was coming over the town pond. Made the ramble, made my morning.
The cold must impact the Osage orange. I counted 31 hedge apples on the ground–and yes I counted them–on the east side of the south pit. Just a couple days ago there was only three. I picked up one, cold and hard in my hands, to take back for my wife. She half believes in the magic of hedge apples and the one I picked up for her a couple weeks ago is getting soft.
Coming out of the wildness around the town pond, I looked at rail cars lined up by the grain elevators on the edge of town, ready to be loaded. (Hello Charles Demuth.) (Hey, and hello to you too, Larry Green.)
It is such a contrast to come from the natural lines around the town pond, then find the stark sharp lines of the grain elevators, rail tracks and boxcars. Straight and narrow.
The grain dryers blasted the morning with noise.
As we turned back into town, the first gray squirrel of the morning sat perfectly still by the stop sign next to the Station Street Pub. Cod Perch Tilapia Shrimp on the white sign on front. Thank God it is Friday.
The bank thermometer read 40.
The first rabbit of the morning sat perfectly still in the lawn a block from home. Give Lady this, she spotted it.
A gray squirrel loped down the sidewalk in front of our house. Lady eyed it but did not chase.
My fingers were stiff with cold. I should have worn gloves. But mid-October seems too early for gloves.
Yes, the weather matters. At least to those of us who get outside.