When I was a callow youth, a period of uncertain beginning and dubious ending, if all you could talk about was the weather, you had my sympathy. (Possibly you also had my barely concealed disdain as well as sympathy. I was that callow.) Weather conversation was a fallback adults used to avoid discussing all the unpleasant things their jobs and kids were doing to them and/or betrayed a woeful lack of imagination. Now I think and talk about the weather constantly, and not just my own local weather but, for example, the disastrous state of the Mid West’s corn crop from drought and the unprecedented heat in the continental and eastern U.S.
Since my middle-age years have no resemblance whatsoever to the same period in my parents’ lives, or so I like to believe (just as they once liked to believe), I chalk this weather fixation up to the Internet and its plethora of garden blogs and forums. There are so many more stick pins on my map of people and places to wonder and worry about, mainly due to the gardens I’ve come to know via the Internet. This summer I’ve got a corn crop of my own, if a crop can be had with just three plants, all from seed Nan Ondra generously offered for SASE last fall. (Zea mays ‘Tiger Cub.’) I won’t be eating this corn. It’s grown for those beautifully variegated leaves, not the cobs. Making a garden is often typecast as an escapist, tra-la-la pursuit, and there is thankfully plenty of tra-la-la to be had, but the more I learn about gardens, the more I sense that they are also outposts where the sky and land are vigilantly scanned by the sentry on duty, who is the first to note when the fruit trees’ crop is ruined by a freakishly late cold snap after being cajoled into early growth by an unseasonably mild winter. Reading the reports of the many sentries on duty, I’m coming to the sobering, middle-aged realization that weather talk is not just idle chatter anymore.