Painted sky outdoes fireworks this year

Prairie Notebook

Somehow, the best sky views on July 4th tended to be the sunset and clouds that accompanied an evening shower.
While the festive fireworks display lit the sky in Flandreau, some neighboring communities and even folks planning to shoot off their own shows, postponed until it was drier out. That’s the good thing about having a mid-week celebration. In bad weather, there’s still a few days to make up for it.
There were plenty of photos of pretty skies on my Facebook feed, showing the sunset in brilliant reds and oranges, broken up with a deep purple. People notice these things and love sharing their pictures of nature’s display for the Fourth. We saw a double rainbow while driving on Interestate 29, too.
After a windy day, the colors of the sky reminded me of my grandpa and his weather lessons.
“Red sky in morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight,” he taught me. Sailors and farmers, in particular, turned to the sky for their weather warnings back before radar could be called up on a cellular phone for a minute by minute prediction.
For the most part, the old sayings seem fairly true, too, at least the red sky warnings.
The humidity of summer around here, in general, brings up another weather warning. This one is for people with arthritis who are suddenly able to predict that a storm is coming by the stiffness in their joints with the change in barometric pressure. Lucky me for inheriting this special skill from a long line of weather predictors. And there’s not a meteorologist among the bunch, just some family members with crazy knees.
When it comes to fog, we’ve all heard the saying that it will bring bad weather in 90 days. It’s often true, my family has discovered. But to be honest, 90 days is a long time to remember the last time it was foggy. Perhaps that is why my mom keeps a weather calendar, of sorts. She has for years made simple notes on a weekly flip calendar, usually free from the local elevator, on what the weather was like and what she did each day. She has years’ worth of these calendars, and if we have needed to remember when something happened, it has helped us track it down.
If we pull our eyes from our screen time, including television news weather, long enough, it’s also fun to see how animals and birds react to incoming weather.
My pup has super sensitive ears and hates thunder, but she starts letting us know a storm is coming long before the first rumble by panting until water runs off of her tongue. Storms scare her and make her so anxious.
But cattle give us a hint when they bunch up together, and birds get really noisy when a storm is coming, too. I’m not overly observant of these things, but it is good to see the clues nature provides in a storm.
Getting outside is usually a great way to get in tune with nature. But there’s an experience I had last summer that startled me. While we were camping at Oakwood Lakes, a cicada fell out of the tree on me while I was reading a book and eating a peach. I didn’t exactly scream, but I did make a startled, half-screech sound and threw book and peach in the air.
I’m not a fan of prehistoric looking bugs or most large bugs. But the surprise was more than the fear in this case. The saddest thing about cicadas is that they signify the end of summer is coming and fall is on its way. Sadder yet, some people have started hearing them already.
As the saying goes, the first song of the cicadas means the first frost will be six weeks later. Somehow, a mid-August sounds unbelievable. I’m guessing the cicada song is less precise than some of nature’s forecasts.
It’s also one that makes me want to bargain with those clues, become the journalistic sceptic and really get to the bottom of things. Does it mean six weeks from first sounds or six weeks from the chorus that will drive a sane person crazy if they spend time outside listening to a cicada symphony?
It’s one song I just can’t seem to love.

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