Them Mayans Ain’t So Smart

Most storms roll over us from the north-west and nine times out of 10, we can gauge their approach… down to the minute.

But every so often Mother Nature throws a gutter ball: a stretch of thunderheads hugs the northern mountain ridge… and hugs it a little too tight. The storm runs its violent course in a straight line, west to east, just out of reach.

This is not current but an angry sky, nonetheless.

That’s what happened Wednesday. Mid-afternoon I had to retrieve the kids from camp, about 12 miles north-east. En route, I clipped the edge of the storm. For a few miles the trees turned inside-out and the sky pelted me in fat, clattering drops.

On the return trip I weighed my options. I could retrace my journey along the bustling two-laned road to the north, or I could possibly skirt the storm along a winding, unpaved road straggling south. A longer route.

I chose the longer, gravel road. We crunched along, buffered by a canopy of trees, and eventually we emerged under clear sky. Sure enough, that little road fell short of the storm’s tail.

When I got home I told Martin — somewhat proudly — how I’d read the weather. Back in the suburbs, I added, I hadn’t the foggiest idea which way the weather ran.

Martin looked unimpressed. “Of course you know where the storm’s going.” He gestured to the horizon. “You’ve got this huge sky to look at.”

“I used to think that the Mayan people were so smart,” Martin went on. “You know, they developed the calendar and made all these astronomical observations. But hell, anyone who sits outside long enough and stares at the sky–”

“–anyone could figure it out?” I ventured.


“So basically, the Mayans were idiots like everyone else?”

“Pretty much, yea.”

And that dampened my pride. Because any fool can stand out here, stare at the clouds and say that rain’s coming…

For fun: a neat, rainless cloud formation. Summer 2011