Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy

December 7, 2005. Speaking of the weather.

Coming back to the US was a nice weather shock. Malawi was hot and sunny. Occasionally it rained hard, great huge drops of warm water pouring from the sky and splashing in the mud and making instant rivers in the streets. London was cold and clear and crisp, a delightful change from Malawi. But the east coast just felt like November should. There are just two colors in November, gray and brown. The sky is a light gray, mottled with clouds and occasional gleaming spots where the sun might be hiding, trying unsuccessfully to emerge. The roads are dark gray. The rock outcrops along the highway are a middling gray, hanging with

silvery gray icicles. The ground is brown. The trees are darker brown, covered with a thick tangle of brown vines that make the woods look shaggy, like scraggly wool, or matted, felted, unwashed hair. The leaves are a lighter brown. Once they might have been a splendid shade of orange, but itís too late in the season for that, and now they are crumpled and brown, the ones that are still left hanging from the branches.

Driving from Boston to my sisterís after Thanksgiving, it snowed and sleeted. As the Mass Pike climbed through the Berkshires, the weather got colder, the sky got darker, and snowflakes rushed past us, streaking the windshield and making it impossible to see anything. But the next day it got warm; after a few days of cold, fifty degrees in upstate New York felt like spring. In Malawi fifty degrees would have been a shock, everyone would have been in ski jackets and wooly hats. But at my sisterís we were running in and out in our shirtsleeves, dodging the puddles of snowmelt in her driveway, and tripping over her eight cats who couldn't decide whether to stay in the house or go outside. The air smelled like warm earth and trees, it seemed that winter was over and warm weather was coming already. The next day, in New Jersey, it was seventy degrees, and people were sitting outside of the coffee house where I stopped to get some work done. The warm weather didnít mix with the Christmas decorations hanging

over the street, but that didnít matter. And after weeks of being miserable in the Malawi heat, it was incongruous to be so happy at the unseasonable warmth in New Jersey. It was nice, though. But thatís how weather is; change is always exciting and invigorating.

Back in Washington DC, a few trees were still showing orange foliage, and sun mixed with scudding clouds to make a wonderful dancing pattern of light on the river and the city. I took a walk along the Potomac, across the 14th Street Bridge to Washington, up past the Washington Monument and the FDR Memorial and the Kennedy Center, into Georgetown, across Key Bridge, and back to my car along the river. It was a fine, aimless excuse for a hike, watching the light change on the river and the buildings as the clouds came in and then blew out again. When the clouds are in, the light is a dull gray and the colors are muted Ė brown of ground, greenish remains of grass, orangey brown leaves. But when the sun slips through the clouds, thereís a sudden glow on the stones, the Washington Monument brilliant white in the middle but flat and dull at the top and the bottom, its reflection in the Tidal Basin solid white in the light blue water. Georgetown was decorated for Christmas and filled with shoppers. The clouds had disappeared by the time I got there, and the city shone crisply in the late afternoon light as I walked across Key Bridge. Returning on the Virginia side, the piers supporting Roosevelt Bridge were golden in long rays of the setting sun. By the time I made it to my car, the sky was gray again. The sun set behind Arlington Ridge as flocks of geese lifted off the river to settle in the nearby marshes for the night.

From Washington I flew to Colorado. Another world entirely. It was 7 degrees when we landed in Denver, and snowing hard. The bus from the airport into Boulder creaked along the highway, the driver visibly stressed by conditions that were making him way behind schedule. My taxi from the bus station to my friend Davidís house slipped and slid on the streets, and I was relieved when we arrived safely. By the evening it was 3 degrees outside, and the snow had changed to a crunchy powder that felt wonderful to walk on. They donít plow in Boulder, so the next morning cars were edging slowly down the sparkling white streets in the minus 4 degree sunshine. By afternoon I was used to the cold, and enjoyed walking around in the blinding light.

The next day, temperatures went up to 20, positively mild. I walked around with my jacket open, my hat stuffed in my pocket and a pleasant cool breeze riffling through my hair.

Not much like the heat and rain of Malawi!

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All text and photos on this site © Joy E. Hecht.