I was in Argentina a little while ago, up in the Andean mountains at the oldest winery in the country. I was visiting with a chef friend of mine and two other buddies and we were sitting out on the back veranda at dusk and looking up at the sky. It was crazy pink. Pinker then I’d ever seen. And it made me think of that old adage, “Pink sky at night, sailor’s delight. Pink sky in morning, sailors take warning.” It was an adage that my grandfather–an old-school Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, who keeps boats on Lake Minnetonka–taught me.
It also made me think of the book I was reading: The Weather Detective by Peter Wohlleben. It’s basically a collection of stories about the everyday science behind *drumroll please* the weather. And though, I knew the words of the “Pink Sky” adage, I never knew the science behind it. Until I read Mr. Wohlleben‘s book. It’s the first nugget of weather-knowledge that he uses and it’s like this:
At sunset, the sun’s last rays come in from the west and if there are no clouds to the west, they shine unobstructed and color the clouds already overhead. And, since weather patterns (at least in the northern hemisphere) travel from west-to-east, we can assume we’ll get these cloudless skies the next day. And the opposite is true for pink skies in the morning: The sun, rising in the east where the sky is clear, shines onto the clouds in the west, which will soon be over our heads.*
Mr. Wohlleben is a park ranger. That’s why he knows this stuff. And apparently I like books written by non-writers because for my last What I’m Reading, I recommended a book by a chef. But that’s the key for non-writer writers, they know things that writers don’t. Because writers are boring. They just sit at a desk and write all day. Some other things that Mr. Wohlleben knows about and writes about are: What the hell hail really is. How to tell the time of morning by the calls of the songbirds. Why plants grow faster after rain. And more.
I’ll admit that some of the English in The Weather Detective is clunky. That’s mostly due to the fact that Mr. Wohlleben is German and it’s a translation. So, if you’re looking for Thoreau, this is not the book for you. But it is for you, if you’re looking for a book of every day science that will help you discover, as he puts it, “How wonderful it is to experience things consciously that you had until now passed by obliviously.”
And this brings be back to the Argentinian veranda. A pink sky is beautiful. But it’s all that much more beautiful, in my opinion, when you know why it’s pink and what its being pink means. And after I explained it to my friends, they agreed. And we all clinked Malbec glasses and went back to enjoying the view.
Find out more about Peter Wohlleben on his website.
*Mr. Wohlleben uses “shepherds” instead of “sailors”, but that’s alright.