A Non-SAD Day

Yesterday we saw an odd phenomenon in Columbus:  the sun was out, the sky was a brilliant blue, and there were actually shadows on the ground.

If you think that’s not a big deal, that’s because you haven’t spent a winter in Columbus.  Columbus is one of the cloudiest cities in the United States during the core winter months of December, January, and February.  According to statistics compiled by the National Climatic Data Center, Columbus experiences dense cloud cover on 67 percent of the days during those three months.  That puts Columbus 7th on a dubious national list of the cloudiest major cities in the country during the winter.  (Portland, Seattle, and Buffalo are the top three.)

And I’m not sure that the 67 percent figures really captures the bleakness of a Columbus winter, either.  The NCDC “dense cloud” standard purports to measure the grey (or in some cases, white) winter days when more than three-quarters of the sky is covered in cloud.  That doesn’t mean that the other 33 percent of Columbus days feature bright sunshine, it just means that they don’t quite reach the required three-quarter cloud cover standard.  So, they might be two-thirds cloud cover, or half cloud cover.  A day where the sky is a bright blue, like yesterday, is as rare as hen’s teeth.

Columbus is not a place where you’d choose to spend the winter if you’ve got Seasonal Affective Disorder — but it you have to be here, regardless, you relish the non-SAD days, and you try to remember that the spring, summer, and fall days will restore your spirits.

Into The Grey Season

IMG_3382At some point every year, the weather in central Ohio changes.  The sun decides to hide behind ever-present clouds, and we deal with the grey season.

This year, it seems like the grey season has come earlier than normal.  I’m already missing the bright days where the sun-dappled water sparkled.

Hood Ornament In The Sky

IMG_1340Interesting cloud formations on the ride home from work tonight.  The wind and cooler than normal temperatures made the sky into a kind of blue and white artist’s canvas that included this perfectly flat creation that looked like a hood ornament from a ’50s car.  It would have been a perfect day for a favorite childhood pastime — flat on your back on the cool grass, friends at your side, watching the clouds spin past.

A Curious Celestial Phenomenon, Revisited

Residents of central Ohio were relieved today when the mysterious flaming ball that appeared in the skies yesterday vanished.  In its place is familiar, comforting gray skies, dull clouds, and rain.

IMG_3453The blazing brightness that the strange golden orb brought with it was too odd and unsettling.  It gave rise to strange urges to remove shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, to dance a little jig on the lawn, to show some bare skin to the world, to smile at the brilliance, and to engage in other forms of unseemly conduct.

No, far better to listen to the patter of the rain against the windowpane, to gaze at a landscape that has been washed clean of vivid color, and to return to the grim perseverance that characterizes the stolid residents of central Ohio.  Far better to remove the source of those curious impulses that we might not have been able to resist for long.  One day, perhaps, that shining source of light and heat in the firmament may return to tempt us . . . but not today.

Up In The Air

When I’m on a plane and the sky is clear, I could spend hours watching the Earth’s surface and the cloud formations slide languidly past, far below, framed against the deep cobalt blue of the upper atmosphere.

I can’t say I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, but I can say they are a great way to pass the time on a long flight.

Beyond The Clouds

For years, I asked my secretary to always book me for an aisle seat when I traveled by air.  That way, I could stand up as soon as the airplane stopped at the gate, efficiently collect my carry-on satchel, and get out more quickly at the end of the flight.

Lately, however, I’ve let this requirement slide.  As a result, I’ve had a few trips where I’ve sat in the window seat — and I’ve found I often enjoy gazing out at the scenery sliding by far below.  Maybe standing immediately and striding purposefully off the plane with an air of enormous self-importance doesn’t seem as crucial as it once did, or perhaps I’m just more capable of appreciating the view.

Today, I sat in the window seat on a flight from Columbus to Philadelphia, and was treated to a beautiful view of an interesting cloud formation that inevitably made me think of the lyrics to Both Sides Now.

Morning Fog

Fog is a relative rarity in Columbus.  When it appears on an otherwise clear morning — as it did this morning — it is a treat.

Everyone who, as a child, watched clouds scudding across the summer sky and wondered what it would be like to be in a cloud will inevitably be attracted to a low-lying bank of fog.  Who wouldn’t welcome the chance to disappear into the mist, like a trenchcoat-clad character in ’40s movie who just spoke a killer line?  On a day that promises to be a hot one, it is a joy to be enveloped in the mist, feeling its dampness on your skin and smelling its pleasant, slightly acrid odor.

Of course, clouds can touch the surface only briefly, until the sun rises over the treetops and shoos them away.

Gray Brushstrokes Above

It was cold, wet, and overcast all day yesterday, and on this morning’s walk we saw that the last few clouds were being swept away, leaving a powder blue sky behind.  Low on the southern horizon the delicate wisps of clouds looked intentionally placed, as if The Great Artist had decided that the canvas called for a few deft, gray brushstrokes in the air in order to frame and complete the scene.

As we walked the high-altitude wind continued to work on the cloud shards, pushing them eastward and shredding them at the same time.  Five minutes later, the delicate brushstrokes were gone.

Cloud formations teach you to enjoy the moment.