Did you happen to notice any pigs gathering sticks last summer? Woodpeckers sharing a tree? Raccoons with thicker tales and broader bands than usual? The halo around the moon last weekend? Perhaps not, unless you're an astute nature lover, a naturalist or a sky watcher.
These, according to folklore are just a few of the sure signs of a hard winter to come. Yet our attention upon our smart phones, ipads, notebooks and the unexpected boon of lower gas prices has probably distracted us from the old-time warnings of farmers and mariners. Could we have been better prepared for the big blow that hit the Northeast with such force this week if only we'd paid attention to these signs?
Probably not. Chances are the only pigs you've seen gathering sticks in the last few months are the giants of Wall Street who repetitively build a bewildering pile of wood that keeps toppling over before they stack it up again. And just ask the 1 percent about the current concept of sharing -- they'll tell you that for all the noise woodpeckers make, they're buggy, truly for the birds. Proof is they don't even know how to feather their own nests so why should we listen to the way they keep hammering their complaints so loud?
As for the thicker tails and broader bands of the raccoons, they're well deserved. Everyone knows these creatures are smarter and more nimble than others in the animal kingdom. Their behavior then, is simply to be expected, its natural, Darwinian. Why then, should we taint them with the reputation of being nature's bandits? Respect, rather than damnation, is due. Consider their hard-working nocturnal habits. While other beasts spend the nights sleeping, they're on the prowl, waiting for the overseas markets to open so that they can get the first bite of the day's goodies. By early morning, what's left behind is a pile of scraps for dumber creatures to digest.
Now about that halo over the moon. One was visible in the heavens this past weekend -- a waxing crescent moon with a haze over it. If you're a mariner you may believe in the expression: a "ring around the moon means rain or snow soon." Turns out, there's scientific truth to it. Meteorologists explain that moon halos emanate from high cirrus clouds drifting 2000 feet or more above the earth. Since they contain millions of ice crystals, we notice them from refraction -- the splitting of light -- or by reflection from the glitter of those crystals. Even so, you and I may see those halos differently, depending upon our eyesight, or the time and position we've seen it.
Perhaps we've missed noticing them because we've been blinded by the halos of the angels of industry and political expediency whose aura has blinded us an encroaching and now frightening global warming. But then again, everyone sees moon halos differently. Maybe they're simply hallucinatory or hallowed symbols from above, praise for America's belief in equality for all. And who knows? Could be the aura of that halo was so bright that it dazzled a hobbyist's 20-foot drone that crashed on the White House lawn early Monday morning just as this week's blizzard descended upon the East Coast?
Me? I put no faith in signs of a hard winter, like pigs gathering sticks, woodpeckers sharing a tree, the fat tails and bright bands of raccoons, or even halos forming over the moon. I'm simply hoping the big blow of January 2015 won't result in more storms emanating from hot air blowing over the land from an overheated U.S. Congress.