Nature Shares Her Secrets

“All that nonsense about signs in nature, that’s just old wives’ tales,” the guy at the hardware store said. “You can’t tell nothin’ from looking at the sky and such.”

I grinned to myself. Really, don’t get involved, I thought, as I left.

cloud2Predicting the weather by nature is an old wives’ tale because the old wives’ were right. The mare’s tales scattered across the sky, followed by the clouds that look like farmer’s rows are a sign of a change in the weather. They mean a drop in temperature, maybe wind, and that combination often means rain, too.

Yesterday, with a brisk wind sweeping the desert, I noticed old palm fronds falling off palms. Not fun it if hits your car–they are big and hard, but shedding is necessary for the palm to thrive. And wind generally brings cold this time of year.


Today, coming home, I saw an iridescent cloud–ice crystals gathered at higher than 20,000 feet. It will be cold tonight again. The light was red, so I took the photo through my windshield. The color was more intense, but this will be enough to help me remember to put the comforter on the bed.

cloud1We’ve gotten away from paying attention to nature, and it’s a shame. There is a lot to be learned my standing outside and looking up at the sky. At night the stars form stories to remember; during the day, you’ll know what weather is coming your way.

And at this time of year, it is not bad to remember stars that pointed to important events. The guy in the hardware store, disparaging old wives, I’ll bet he believes the Christmas story–that a star indicated Jesus’s birth, and called shepherds to attention, guided kings with gifts. Even then, we knew that signs of importance came from nature.

Sometime today, when you are racing through life, look up at the sky. Maybe it has something to tell you. Maybe you have something to say back.

—Quinn McDonald is a naturalist and creativity coach.


16 thoughts on “Nature Shares Her Secrets

  1. I remember telling my ex-mother-in-law about a kayak outing when I was trying to get near a duck but it kept moving away faster than I could keep up. She said “why did you want to get near it” — I said “to see what kind it was” — and she said “why did you want to know?” Moral: some people are nature noticers, some are not :-/

    • I thought parhelia appear in pairs? I thought this was part of a circumhorizontal arc. But they may be the same thing. I’ve seen one other one in five years, also horizontal. But I’ve never seen them as bright light spots flanking the sun. I’d love to see that!

  2. the morning sky and the evening sky talk to me every day…so much information about the weather and the stories of the birds flying at sunrise and sunset fill my sketchbook, my poems and my camera. It is good to be writing the old wives tales every day.

  3. Behaviors in nature are signs of what’s coming. From full moon garden plantings to clouds that look like snow on the way. Animal behavior is telling as well. Who doesn’t wait for that ground hog prediction in February? lol

  4. and—–in the last photo it looks as if there is a “shooting heart”!!! (with my kind of imagination anyway:-) love your perspectives of life. thank you for sharing. i probably love them even more because often they resonate with my own and what i’m usually told is “weird” or “too much time on my hands” if i take pictures of such or bring up the “magnificence in the ordinary” as i call it! off for my frigid sunshiny walk with my best friend lucy lu! the snowbirds are back, so it’s officially winter in my yard anyway!!! (my cue on spring’s arrival as well—when i don’t see them any more!) happy wednesday!


  5. Read The Age of Missing Information by Bill McKibben. It is a very interesting book on just this topic and describes how our perceptions are changed by what we see in nature and otherwise. There are dozens of little rhymes that tell about upcoming weather because they are generally spot on.

  6. The guy in the hardware store did not know that they(old wives) were a member of the WOW- ‘ Wise old wives’ …….and he probably came from Mars…just kidding but yes throughout the years, ages we become more and more separated from mother Nature and the signs she gives……..and SHE is always right!

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