Graupel is a word I've just learned. Basically, it's a version of snow-sleet-hail. On a spring walk with the dog, the sun shining when we set out, then turning, the dark clouds moving in, spitting the strange mixture out. It bounced off my coat sleeve and off the dog's head. Soft pellets that remind me of styrofoam balls, and I can't help thinking about the end of the world, like the pictures my son sent me from San Francisco when the city was surrounded by burning fires and the sky went orange.
When was that? I search the word orange in my journal and find this entry on September 10, 2020: "the light is orange and eerie. [My son] told me a few days ago that he and his girlfriend have jugs of water in the car and are ready to go at a moment's notice. He said, if we go, we'll just keep going and never go back."
I had forgotten he told me this. Something handy about keeping a digital journal is that I can do a word search for anything. Orange, for example. Or my mother. Holidays. The dog. Places I traveled. Lettuce. And every kind of weather--and instantly find my thoughts on whatever topic going back nearly twenty years.
For the past several weeks I've been reading David Sedaris's collection of diary entries. David Sedaris is a serious journal writer and I love him for it. His first set of published entries can be found in the collection Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002) and his latest is A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003–2020). The entries cover the mundane: overheard conversations, recipes, how much money he earned at odd jobs--
to the serious: his mother's cancer, his troubled relationship with his father; and in between, lots of funny and absurd encounters and observations. He says in the introduction that he could've chosen any number of entries to include and given a totally different sense of himself--as someone more stupid or generous or selfish or sensitive. "On any given day," he says, "I am all of these things and more."
The same year of the orange sky, our next door neighbor climbed a ladder and took down the orange painted shutters on our new-old house. I made cranberry-orange nut bread with my daughter when she was living with us during the lockdown. One day my mother brought over some oranges and an open package of figs.
I wrote: "I don’t understand the fig thing. She said she didn't want them. Not sure why she wouldn’t throw the rest of the package out. This is interesting to me. She and her siblings were raised in a poor household and now, 75 years later, they’re still anxious about waste. It makes me wonder how long the effects of covid will last. Kids growing up now—what will it do to them fundamentally? Crowds, hand washing, coughing, masks?"
I forgot that I had written this too. It's a weird feeling keeping a journal for so long. Regularly since 2007, but before that, sporadically, going all the way back to when I was nine years old. I wrote for myself, or sometimes I envisioned a Future Me reading, and now, I guess, I am the Future Me.
In two years, five, I imagine myself doing a word search for graupel. It won't show up at all until April, 2022. And then, maybe I will never write about it again.
Or maybe it is only the beginning of our strange weather.
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