As I stacked a freshly delivered cord of seasoned firewood today, I was thankful that I’d decided to put it under the carport this time. That will make it a bit easier to get to if we get more snow this winter, but really, I was mainly grateful to be able to work in the shade and avoid a freaking sunburn.
See, it’s nearly 60 degrees today. It feels at least 10 degrees warmer. I stripped off my fleece jacket. I pushed up my sleeves. Sweat started trickling down the back of my neck. Almond and walnut stovewood is heavy; lifting it and chunking it onto the stack, piece after piece after piece, isn’t sissy-work. As I bend, lift and twist, I remind myself of the old saw about how good firewood warms you thrice: Once in the chopping, once in the stacking, and finally in the burning. I’ve managed to forego the first warming by purchasing the wood already cut into stovelengths. But after its been dumped on the driveway in a giant pile that’s about a foot taller than I am, I have my opportunity to experience the second stage fully.
The third stage is the best, of course. It’s the one where the fire is burning cozily in the woodstove and I’m sitting curled up in my chair with a good book a few feet from it while cold rain lashes the windows or snow piles up in silent beauty just outside them.
So today I actually feel a little silly buying more firewood, given the sunny brightness and soft warmth. But even if winter seems a little ambiguous around here, the reality was that we were down to about a quarter-cord of firewood. The weather here in the mountains tends to change quickly. Since that wood is our only source of heat, running out of it with another six weeks of winter possibly in the works just isn’t acceptable.
In other parts of the country, it’s still unambiguously winter. Poor Madison Guy, who writes the Letter from Here, is trying hard to stay cheerful about the record 77 inches of snow they’ve had there in Madison, Wisconsin so far this winter, but it’s taking its toll on him. He can’t help but show us a picture of a city park under a heavy cover of snow and write, pointedly, that he shot the photo last April. Guy thinks his cat, who sleeps most of the winter, has the right idea.
Like frosty Wisconsin, sunny California is living up to its reputation. Each day I peruse the weather on my Yahoo home page, hoping to see the little icon of clouds with stuff underneath them – rain or snow or that coy “wintery mix.” But for the last five days or so, it’s just been sun and maybe a little cloud. And that’s all there is in the forecast, too, all the way through the end of February. Sun. A little cloud. Sun. Sun. Sun. Oh, maybe a few showers on a Thursday two weeks from now.
So you can imagine my excitement when, after stacking the wood and getting all sweaty, I opened the home page on my browser, scrolled down and saw, yes, a line of suns and little clouds. But next to the words “Camino, CA” there was a tiny red asterisk.
Omigod! A Severe Weather Alert! Could it mean snow on the way? Heavy rain? Flooding? Blizzards?
Then I got a grip. Around here, Severe Weather Alerts can mean nothing worse than a few showers three or four days from now, which might make the roads a little damp. They’re warning us if water does happen to fall from the sky, we should be a little more careful than usual behind the wheel.
Or, I thought wryly, this time they’re going to warn us about the sunshine. They’re going to remind us that with all these ferocious and unrelenting UV rays, we’d best slather on sunscreen and not venture out without sunglasses.
Breath held, I clicked into the weather site to discover what this Severe Weather Alert might possibly be Alerting Us To.
Turns out “HIGH PRESSURE MOVES INTO THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST WEDNESDAY AND BATTLES WITH LOW PRESSURE OVER THE SOUTHWESTERN UNITED STATES.” (Oooh! A pressure battle! Sounds interesting! Go on!) “THIS WILL CREATE A TIGHT SURFACE PRESSURE GRADIENT (Oh, baby! A tight surface pressure gradient! Tell me about it!) WITH STRONG NORTHERLY WINDS TO SET UP WEDNESDAY MORNING OVER THE SHASTA COUNTY MOUNTAINS AND SACRAMENTO VALLEY...INCLUDING THE DELTA...WITH GUSTS 40 TO 45 MPH.” (Um, OK, right. That’s it? It’s going to be windy?) “THE AREA OF STRONG NORTHERLY WINDS WILL EXPAND TO INCLUDE THE COASTAL MOUNTAINS WHILE STRONG EASTERLY WINDS WILL SPREAD ACROSS THE SIERRA NEVADA BY WEDNESDAY NIGHT AND INTO THURSDAY WITH GUSTS UP TO 50 MPH.” (Yeah, that’s it. it’s going to be pretty windy. Big whoop.) “DRIVING MAY BE DIFFICULT ON ALL ROADWAYS THAT RUN PERPENDICULAR TO THE WIND FLOW...ESPECIALLY FOR LARGE PROFILE VEHICLES.” (No kidding?)
Honestly. This is not Severe Weather. Seventy-seven inches of snow and it’s not even mid-February, that’s Severe Weather. This is … It’s Doing Something Out There Weather. This is … Look! The Trees are Swaying Weather.
This is Embarrassing.