Thursday, December 5, 2013

Write About The Weather

A March snow in another year

This week, weather seems to be taking topspot in the news stories. Winter Storm Cleon (when did we start naming snowstorms?) is marching across the northwest and today an ice storm is predicted for several southern states. Here in Kansas, we had a skiff of snow overnight, as if the snow fairies had sprinkled it here and there and then moved on. Lots of bare street showing but the temps are of arctic measure.

Our son and family were planning to go to Mongomery, Alabama for a family wedding this weekend. They're watching the Dallas weather carefully to see if they can get out of Dallas tonight or not. They're on the edge of the icing area, but even 50 or 100 miles of that is tense, treacherous kind of driving. Weather controls our lives many times.

Weather! We talk about it all the time. We learn to deal with it. We curse it at times when it interferes with plans. So why not write about it?

I've written several nonfiction pieces that have to do with weather. Ice storms, tornadoes, wall clouds, and big snowstorms. If you're going to write about the weather, it should have some kind of story or meaning--in other words, there should be a reason to write about it. In my story about a Christmas with a huge snowstorm, there was more to it than just being surrounded by the white stuff. It changed our Christmas in a big way. I've posted the story below. A good time to write about weather is when it's happening or very soon after, while it's still fresh in your mind. Later on, the emotional part is gone or lessened. Here's my snow story. What can you write that deals with weather?

The Christmas Of The Big Snow
By Nancy Julien Kopp

We finalized the 2009 Christmas plans at Thanksgiving when both our children’s families gathered around the dining room table. We would celebrate a week early in Texas with Kirk’s family, then go to Karen’s in-law’s on Christmas Day and on to her house the next day. All set—or so we thought.

Now, Christmas was only four days away, on Friday, and I still had some gift wrapping to do and a few things to bake. The radio and TV announcers kept repeating that we might have snow for Christmas—lots of it! But I didn’t worry about it as storms here in central Kansas so often ended up veering either north or south of us. We usually didn’t put much stock in the reports until we saw the first flakes of snow.

By Wednesday afternoon, the weather people repeated words like blizzard and drifting and icy roads. I looked out the window off and on but all we had was rain and foggy conditions. It looked dismal but not threatening. Still, something told me I’d better run to the grocery store and pick up some “just in case” steaks to have on hand.

I finished wrapping the gifts for Karen’s family and one for Steve’s parents that evening. Thursday morning, I made the last batch of cookies and cinnamon rolls, which left a lingering spicy scent in the warm kitchen. Not a flake of snow in sight. I scoffed at the weatherman on our local radio station when he predicted a record snow.

I work as a volunteer at our hospital gift shop on Thursday afternoons. As Ken and I ate lunch, the first flakes drifted from the sky. I must have looked worried because Ken said, “I’ll take you to the hospital and pick you up in time to get to church by five.”

I helped customers, most of whom were hospital employees, select last-minute gifts all that afternoon. Christmas music flowed through the shop. I kept watch out the shop’s big picture windows as the continuing snow turned the world white. The wind picked up and I saw the snow swirling as it fell, trees bowing down just like the Three Kings who visited Baby Jesus.

People who came in from outside stamped their feet, shaking snow as they walked in. We heard things like “It’s piling up fast out there!” and “The roads are pretty slick.”  “Wind’s getting a lot worse.” The manager decided to close at 4 p.m., so I called Ken to pick me up sooner than planned. As I buttoned my coat and pulled on gloves, I told myself it was sure to stop soon.

The moment I got outside, I had trouble staying on my feet with the whipping wind. The bitter cold seeped through my coat in only seconds. Once I got inside the car, we started creeping home on roads that were getting worse by the minute. The usually short drive seemed like an eternity.

 “Maybe we shouldn’t try to go to church,” I said.

Ken agreed, but I felt a real pang of regret. It would be the first Christmas Eve service we’d ever missed in the 45 years of our marriage. Later, we heard that nearly all the churches cancelled services.

Our house felt warm and welcoming, and we were soon in our comfy chairs in the living room. The wind howled outside, as we sipped wine and nibbled on cheese and crackers while we watched the weather report. They kept repeating that word blizzard and then added record amounts of snow, then high winds to cause major drifting. Karen and Steve were already at his parents’ house, so I didn’t worry about them. They were safe and enjoying Christmas Eve with family. And Kirk and Amy were in Mississippi where there was no snow. We had heat and lights and plenty of food in the house. But I had definite misgivings about our plans for Christmas Day. The roaring wind taunted me like a playground bully.

We’ve been married long enough that Ken answered my question before I even got the words out. “The roads will be cleared by late tomorrow morning when we leave.” And I believed him! But it snowed all night and was still snowing and blowing Christmas morning. The gifts were ready, the food I was taking waited in the fridge and pantry.

We opened the gifts we had for each other, then ate a hot breakfast with some of the cinnamon rolls as a Christmas treat. And still the snow came. Ken tried to clear the driveway, but it was slow going with the drifts along one side.

Reports on radio and TV warned people to stay off the highways as they were snow-packed and icy and would remain so all day. We looked at each other and made a silent decision to stay home. Finally, Ken said, “You’d better call Karen and tell her.”

We had the ‘just in case’ steaks for dinner and a choice of many kinds of Christmas cookies for dessert. The phone rang off and on all day, and we made some calls to family in other states, but the day seemed to creep by. We knew we weren’t the only ones whose plans had changed. We had power, unlike some, so I tried to be grateful, but I kept thinking about our grandchildren

We were disappointed but not devastated. Once the roads were cleared and traffic could move safely, we’d make the trip to Karen’s house on the 26th and have Christmas. Her small children wouldn’t mind repeating the gift opening one more day. But the roads weren’t much better the next day and reports of accidents and drifting along the interstate made us use more caution than usual. Those 120 miles could turn into an all-day, very tense drive. We stayed home.

Karen and Steve had to go back to work on Monday, and on Wednesday, Ken fell and ended up in the hospital with a mild concussion, so we had a further delay. Would we ever have Christmas with this part of our family?

On the ninth of January, we packed the car with the unopened gifts and the food taken from the freezer. We made our way to Kansas City on clear, dry roads. The big snow was a memory, the disappointing Christmas Day pushed aside. It didn’t matter what day we celebrated with our children and grandchildren, whether early or late, it was Christmas in our hearts and we relished being together. That holiday, however, will always be ‘the Christmas of the big snow.”

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