Posted by Joanchek on Sunday, March 29, 2009
We call them old wives' tales, rules of thumb, tradition, what the old-timers say. Mr says that if the woolly bear caterpillars have a wide black stripe it'll be a hard winter, and then the next year he reverses that, and says that's what the old farmers "on the hill" said. If the house seems chilly, we say that it's been a hard winter, and during the January thaw we marvel at how mild the winter has been. Until spring comes, we just can't see the big picture.
We had our first thunderstorm tonight, and the old wives' tale is that the first frost comes 6 months later. That makes sense of course, if you live in this part of the country. It's nonsense in Florida, or International Falls. And it'll be nonsense here tonight because the thunderstorm ushered in a cold front that is supposed to bring snow by morning. But every year I mark the date of the first thunderstorm on my calendar and check back to see how close to the mark those old wives were. It's harmless, it's fun, and it's become one of my own traditions.
I am a fact-seeker by nature; I put no stock in the woolly bears and rings around the moon. I wonder about ancient people who observed their surroundings so carefully that they noticed the movement of constellations in the sky, the predictability of weather by the patterns of the clouds, and the portents of the thickness of spider silk and fur on an animal's coat. This is the beginning of any scientific theory: observation of a phenomenon.
I need to just sit still and look closely more often.
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