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Brilliant, this day—a young virtuoso of a day.
Morning shadows cut by sharpest scissors,
deft hands. And every prodigy of green—
whether it’s ferns or lichen or needles
or impatient points of bud on spindly bushes—
greener than ever before.
And the way the conifers
hold new cones to the light for blessing,
a festive rite, and sing the oceanic chant the wind
transcribes for them!
A day that shines in the cold
like a first-prize brass band swinging along the street
of a coal-dusty village, wholly at odds
with the claims of reasonable gloom.

“Celebration” by Denise Levertov, from This Great Unknowing. © New Directions Publishing, 1999. Reprinted with permission.

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I love the picture of this — but the best part is the last bit.  Losing the summer weather and feeling the cold creep in is always depressing for me, but the gorgeous autumn weather, the cold and blue skies with the leaves of green and orange, yellow and red, help this season change with joy.  It’s easier to be happy in September or October, but when I really need to remember this is in November, when the days come darker and there is no snow yet to brighten everything.  I need to forget the “reasonable gloom” and find the part of each day that shines for me, even on a cold and rainy day.

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The NaBloPoMo theme for May is “look up”, which I am interpreting to mean “look things up and write blog posts about them”.  So every post in May will be something I’ve thought about and wanted to know a bit more.  Hopefully they will be interesting.  🙂

In researching the information for the post on the Icelandic volcano, I came across the fact that volcano eruptions can severely affect weather in other parts of the world, to the extent of warping the seasons; since it’s spring in Minnesota, I thought I’d check it out.

Evidently, 1812-1817 were years in which volcanoes worldwide erupted quite a bit and vomited an unhealthy amount of ash and debris into the air.  This dark buildup peaked in 1815 with the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia, which caused over 82,000 deaths, making it one of the world’s five most deadly eruptions.

By the time the ash cloud had made it around the world to disrupt the weather in America, it was 1816, which has become known as the “year without a summer”.  The summer of 1816 was unseasonably cold and short, with snow in early to mid-June and early frosts in September in the northeastern US, and an extremely cold and wet summer in Europe.  Farmers in the US, because of the crop failures, began moving to the Midwest, changing the face of farming in America.  Europe had widespread famines and epidemics, and Asia also suffered crop failures.  While other events may have contributed to the worldwide migration of the 1820-1850s, certainly the bad summers of the years following the volcanic eruptions played a part.

One amusing effect of the “year without a summer” is that Mary Shelley was inspired by the dreary, rainy days during her holiday in Italy to begin telling spooky stories, which led directly to her novel Frankenstein.

There have been other years or stretches of years with unseasonably cold temperatures, known as the Little Ice Age in Europe, which spanned the years 1150-1460 and 1560-1850 (of which the “year with no summer” was a part).   Pieter Bruegel’s famous painting Hunters in the Snow was created in 1565, during the second part of the Little Ice Age (here is a poem inspired by this painting).

Hunters in the Snow -- Bruegel

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, the corn on Almanzo Wilder’s father’s farm was frozen on the morning of the 4th of July, 1866, and though they worked for hours in the dark to splash water on it before the sun rose and killed it, they were not able to save all of it.  They did go on to have a bountiful harvest, however.

With all these stories, I remind myself of God’s promise that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).  Though summers were cold, there was still a harvest.  Maybe not the best, and maybe not enough, but there was still food.  God is more powerful than the worst volcano eruption and stronger than any “year without a summer”.  It makes sense to put your trust in Him, especially now when money seems as scarce as full harvests did in 1816.

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