Do you have some weather sayings or proverbs in your area?
Maybe you’ve heard ones like “April showers bring May flowers,” or “Clear moon, frost soon.”
Perhaps you know this weather proverb: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”
Here in the northern hemisphere, we say “March comes in like a lion but goes out like a lamb.”
This saying might have started out referring to the stars. The beginning of March sees the constellation Leo (the lion) rising in the east. The end of the month features the constellation Aries (the ram or lamb) setting in the west.
Over time, the saying shifted to have more of a weather connotation. The start of March is often cold and stormy, fierce like a lion. By the end of the month, the weather has turned more calm and gentle, almost lamb-like.
This weather proverb doesn’t always hold true, of course; sometimes March starts out like a lamb but ends like a ferocious lion!
There is, however, a Biblical promise about these two animals that you can bank on:
Jesus came to earth first as a lamb, but will return as a lion.
They say that the Eskimo and Inuit peoples have over 100 words for snow.
Is this actually true, or is it just a cliché?
There has been heated debate on whether the Eskimos really do have that many distinct words for snow. I consulted Giles Whittell’s 2019 book “Snow: A Scientific and Cultural Exploration” for information.
Whittell refers to a recent contribution to the question by the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. They determined that in Canada’s Nunavik region, the Inuit there have 53 distinct words for snow; in the Central Siberian Yupik dialect they counted 40.
Among the words listed in the Yupik dictionary are:
“kanevvluk” = fine snow “navcaq” = snow formation about to collapse “qanisqineq” = snow floating on water “utvak” = snow carved in a block, as for an igloo
Clearly, those living in the extreme north do have far more words to describe snow than those who makes their homes farther south.
As Whittell says, “…people learn to describe in greatest detail what matters most to them.”
I suppose that the number of words a culture has to describe something tells us a great deal about the importance they place on it.
A funny thing happens in a city when one of its sports teams reaches the playoffs or finals.
Suddenly, everyone becomes a fan.
This is especially true if that team has suffered a trophy or title drought for a considerable length of time, perhaps decades.
The team’s fortunes become a topic of conversation everywhere in town. People talk about their team’s success while at work, in stores, or on transit. They speak with authority about the merits of certain players, or even about specific shots in particular games.
On any given day, people in town know exactly where their team stands, and how many games they need to win to achieve the championship title for that year.
My hometown of Toronto experienced this in 2019 when the Raptors won their first NBA title in the franchise’s history. Their victory was celebrated with a massive parade downtown, attended by millions.
I had friends who gushed about the Raptors’ success, then grinned sheepishly and admitted, “And I don’t even like basketball!”
Everyone loves a winner, don’t they?
But what happens when your team doesn’t produce the victory everyone is hoping for?
Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re looking at, do we?
This winter solstice is a good example of that, because tonight we’ll be able to see a particularly bright “star” in the night sky.
That is, you might assume it’s a star, but you’ll actually be seeing something quite different.
This rare “Christmas star” will actually be a planetary conjunction. The planets Jupiter and Saturn will be so closely aligned tonight that they will appear to be one ultra-bright object.
At other times, a bright “star” you see might actually be a binary star system; that is, two stars orbiting each other. Or it could be the planet Venus. You’d need to study it through a telescope, adjust your focus and consult an astronomical guide to know for sure.
The truth is, sometimes we don’t really understand what we’re seeing.
That was certainly true for many of the people who saw the baby Jesus and the star which heralded His birth.
One of the greatest natural events on Earth is now underway: the migration of the monarch butterfly.
Each fall, millions of these colourful insects set off from their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern U.S. and Canada for a gruelling journey. They travel thousands of miles across North America all the way to Mexico, where they’ll spend the winter.
Many people believe that the monarch butterflies which leave in the fall are the same ones which arrive back in the spring, but this isn’t so. Individual butterflies don’t make the entire round-trip journey. The ones which migrate from the northeastern part of North America in fall will never return.
Rather, their great-great-grandchildren are the ones who will arrive the following spring, as successive generations keep making their way north. The entire annual migration cycle of the monarch takes about four generations.
Perhaps I’m being fanciful, but I can imagine monarch butterflies telling their children of the awesome journey they’ll be undertaking. They may say that they’ll only be able to go part of the way with them, but to keep the faith and keep going.
Maybe they encourage their children to tell successive generations to keep believing in the promise of return. Because eventually, their descendants will see the promise fulfilled.