Cook: Things to come

Cook: Things to come

August 27th, 2013 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Stopped by the neighborhood pharmacy last week for allergy medicine, and wound up buying a copy of the 2014 Farmer's Almanac.

Outside, it was raining. Or had just been raining. Or was about to start raining. Maybe all three.

To be clear, we're not farmers. We have a garden, a soggy one actually, but farming? Like Eva Gabor on "Green Acres," we are more urban than rural. For us, the Junior Varsity Farmer's Almanac would be more appropriate.

But inside the pharmacy, holding that Almanac was comforting in an unexpected way. Like going to the gym and picking up a 50-pound weight when a 25-pound one will do, reading the $5.95 Almanac was a big boost of encouragement, offering a glimpse -- backward or forward, I'm still not sure -- of what could be.

A life of heirloom apples and barn quilts and backyard garlic ... and predictable weather.

First, though, I had to buy it. So I'm in line about to swipe my debit card, and one of the pharmacists begins to unpeel the adhesiveness of this place-mat size advertisement onto the counter right in front of me.

It's an advertisement for flu shots.

I repeat: flu shots. Flu. Shots.

In August.

"We just have two cases," the pharmacist tells me. "Of the flu."

Of course you have. And is anybody really that surprised? We've entered this strange age of nonsensical weather where, like MTV Video Music Awards, nothing makes sense any more.

Take August. (Please.) It's been cold in the mornings, like October. It's been raining every day, like Seattle. Now, this week, it's going to be hot again, like, well, August.

"Weather forecast for tonight? Dark," the comic George Carlin once said.

That's about the only stable prediction these days. Climatologists predict this changing climate to get a whole lot crazier. Earlier this year, one research at the University of Tennessee and a couple of supercomputers created a forecast of the next 50 years of Southern weather.

Go ahead. Take a guess.

"Both the Northeast and Southeast will see a drastic increase in precipitation," said professor Joshua Fu, whose research predicts 35 percent increases in wet weather for this area.

The Almanac made a similar prediction for 2014. Let two words do the work of many.

"Generally wet," the Almanac reads.

Our coming winter weather, the Almanac predicts, will be colder and snowier, with so much falling that the snow cover across the country (especially here) will be "the tenth largest over the past 47 years," it reads.

In our neck of the woods, it will rain cats and dogs the week before Thanksgiving. Christmas Day will probably be wet: either rain or snow.

"Possible severe storms in south January 24-25," the Almanac envisions.

In March, severe weather looks to roll through on the 10th and again a week later. April is April, which means we get some rain and sun and storms and tornadoes too.

"Unsettled," the Almanac, eerily, reads.

Among such unsettledness, the Almanac manages to keep its chin up. The 146-page paperback contains charming mini-essays on the history of Sears and Roebuck, the last days of the dinosaur, the goodness of heirloom apples and the history of one fishy New Year's Eve tradition from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.

"Partygoers bundled up against the cold watch the frozen body of a 25-pound carp named Lucky descend on a giant fishook to a glittery throne, then line up and kiss the homely fish as a good luck token for the coming year," Marti Attoun writes.

(Really now, how different is that from most of our New Year's Eve barroom experiences?)

There are predictions on the best fishing days (Valentine's Day is promising) and a moving essay on the 100th anniversary of Mother's Day.

But the best stuff comes from Ed Pearl, the Almanac meteorologist, and his forecasts. Pearl, once a global warming skeptic, writes a convincing piece about Hurricane Sandy and the lessons we should learn.

"Sandy was a wake-up call to warn us about things to come," he writes.

Yes, things to come.

Like more rain, more snow, more heat, more cold. And flu in August.

We could write libraries about climate change and our response to it. Somewhere in that library needs to be a Farmer's Almanac and all the grandma-goodness it contains.

"Helping you pick the date for a family reunion, plant your tomatoes under the right sign, and make the perfect French fry," the Almanac promises.

And find a way to make sense of the things to come in this crazy wet world.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP