From Gazette summer editions:
It’s one of those odd things that the northeast wind which, most of the year, produces three days — at least — of rain and wind, usually raw and bleak, can produce in late summer and early fall the beautiful phenomenon known as a dry northeaster. A northwest day is pretty fine, but the clear northeast day is finest of all, for its air makes the heart lilt and sing.
This is not to say that the northeast day is lyrical, ever, for its mood is more adventurous and daring. One might say, rather, that such a sunny day with ocean air fresh in from the great Atlantic reservoir of boldness and unsullied space turns every human being into a Frobisher or Drake or Columbus. That’s the kind of bracing poetry the dry northeaster is.
In the sky the great clouds pile up, but they never darken or obscure the sun more than fleetingly. A mighty architect of clouds the dry northeaster is, piling them up like lofty mountain ranges in the distant sky, and all day long the scene shifts and changes. The imagination is really in the mind of the beholder, just as the poetry is, but both seem to be in the kind of day and in the sun and the clouds and the excitement of the easterly air. Anyway, there can’t be this sort of day without the high gallantry that invites mankind, and goes right on inviting.
Before this summer grows much older we expect that people will be complaining about the southwest wind. They always do. They say that the southwester does not invigorate and lift the spirit, which is true; but what else lifts the summer season and keeps it going? Summer rides on the southwest wind as surely as the wheels of industry ride on a film of oil.
Besides, who wants to be invigorated all the time? There is a place in nature and an appointment of man for the warm breath of ease and relaxation. If people object to sultriness, why do they take vacations in summer? They don’t really object as much as they pretend; almost everyone enjoys an excursion into the sultry turn of nature, into the relaxation it makes so convenient.
Humidity, like sultriness, has come to be a sinister word; yet if there were no dampness in the air, there could not be the mingling of scents, temperatures and inclinations that in the southwester combines the delight of today with memories of youth.
Let it blow, we say. Let the southwester be turned on, as it so often seems to be, like the torrent from an unceasing electric fan. Let it blow over the water and upon the land, and convey to human senses the sensuous themes of nature.
Television’s weather prognosticators may, in cities, have replaced the weather vane of the past. Not so in the country, where rooftops and church steeples and fenceposts still tend to boast their roosters and codfish and pigs and sailing ships that head up into this wind or that.
Though some early weather vanes in this country may have made their way from Holland in the days of Dutch colonization, most of the first New England weather vanes were fashioned after their English precursors. Shem Drowne’s copper grasshopper that indicates the wind on Boston’s Fanueil Hall is a copy of a grasshopper that once perched on London’s Royal Exchange.
But there were distinctly American weather vanes too. Among the oldest is the wooden fish with copper nails for scales that once topped Paul Revere’s copper shop.
And the Vineyard has always had distinctive weather vanes. There were the white pine sailing vessels that the late Frank Adams of West Tisbury designed carrying full sets of zinc sails, with bowsprits of fir and masts of hard pine to withstand the wind. Sadly, there are few of the originals left. For awhile, George Tait made ship weather vanes, too, in Vineyard Haven, and Travis Tuck is designing copper rams and Canada geese and osprey and the like with his own personal touch.
It grows a bit tiresome, listening to those TV meteorologists suggesting that there may be a cold front descending from Canada or warm air coming up from the South. As often as not, what they predict will be the next day’s weather isn’t. The only certainties in their pronouncements are the temperatures and wind direction — and any weather vane can tell you wind direction — and so prettily.
Compiled by Cynthia Meisner