Recently, Louie was looking out of the window in our shop at an approaching storm. The dark clouds foreshadowed the heavy rains that closely followed the advancing darkness. Louie reminded me that the old timers would call this an Elderberry Storm. It is at this time of year when the Elderberrys are in full bloom at the beginning of summer and brief heavy rains often take place.
Louie’s comments got me thinking about all the different ways we describe one of nature’s most beneficial gifts of life, rain. The rain that falls from the sky can be gentle and soak into the ground slowly to be absorbed by the plants all around us. But it also can fall so quickly it has no chance of soaking in the earth and causes flooding that can destroy lives and homes.
Even the lack of rain can cause the land around us to dry up and wither away into a cloud of brown swirling dust. Without rain, life as we know it would be dramatically changed.
Because rain can influence so many things around us, we humans have found a variety of different ways to describe the fact that rain is-a-comin.
Before computers and scientific weathermen were around to give us so called accurate weather forecasts, the old timers simply observed the sky and world around them to try and predicate future weather. You remember the old saying, “Red at night sailors delight, red in the morning sailor take warning.” Or, “Evening red and morning gray will set the traveler on his way, but evening gray and morning red will bring down the rains on his head.” By simply observing the sky’s colors, our forefathers saw a way to predict the rains. They may not have understood the atmospheric condition that foretold the weather, but they knew the sky’s color often meant change in the weather.
Men whose lives were often deeply affected by weather had to be able to predict it to some degree. Sailors on the high seas could prepare for rough weather aboard their ships and batten down the hatches before the seas turned bad. Farmers could decide whether to begin the harvest of crops or the cutting of hay by trying to read the skies for tomorrow’s weather. And early travelers crossing America’s heartland by wagons could try and find shelter from the oncoming weather.
When grass is dry at morning’s light look for rain before the night. No dew on the grass at night is often a sign of coming rain. If the cool nights do not condense the moisture held in the air into droplets, it would stay held in the atmosphere. The warm moisture would rise on air currents until it was high enough to be cooled and return to earth as rains.
When chairs squeak, of rain they speak. Catchy drawer and sticky door, coming rain it will pour. The rise in moisture in wood and changes in atmospheric pressures can cause wood to expand and become tight. The tight fit of doors and lack of flex in wood chair joints are a foretelling of rain.
When ditch and pond offend the nose, then look out for rain and storm’s big blow. Flowers are more fragrant before a rain. In the warm months of summer standing water will lose some of it oxygen content. This leads to an increase in algae blooms and bottom sludge begins to degrade. In turn this promotes water stagnation and the release of foul odors contained in degrading materials of the bottom.
Flowers release their fragrance from sacks inside the flower through evaporation. Increased evaporation and slight changes in barometric pressure before storms will allow both pleasant and unpleasant odors to be released into the air.
The air is close and heavy before an approaching rain. Often your skin feels sticky and clothes tend to stick to your body when stormy atmospheric conditions exist. That increased humidity wants to transfer its heat to your skin. At the same time, evaporation of sweat that is supposed to help cool you can not take place as efficiently. Often it feels even hotter after a quick summer shower. The rain evaporates so quickly it greatly increases the humidity levels in the air around us. This makes it seem even hotter than before the storm.
A pale rising moon portends rain the next day. A ring around the sun or moon means rain or snow is coming soon. When moisture is carried high into the atmospheric air currents, it is often easily seen against the hazy muted light of the sun or the night moon. A change in the atmospheric pressure and cooling will help to return moisture, held aloft, to earth in the form of rain or winter snows.
There are many different sayings that in the past helped to predict the weather. Today we have lost some of those sayings to computer predicted weather forecasts. And for all their scientific expertise the computer models are sometimes wrong, much like those predictors of yesterday. Mother Nature has a way of making her own rules when it comes to the weather. Perhaps she gets some enjoyment out of us being caught without an umbrella once in while.
Studying the old timers’ sayings, there were a few I have been unable to figure out just what they meant when speaking of rain. It’s raining cats and dogs or it was a real toad strangler. I have to wonder what was going though the mind of the persons who penned those sayings.
I get these images in my mind of dogs and cats falling out of the sky hitting the ground with a bounce, before giving out a howl and running for cover. And then I see some demented guy on his knees in a driving rain with his hands around a toad’s neck choking the poor pimply amphibian. Nay, I do not ever see the computer model predicting either of those events even as I look Thru the Lens.