When Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States (1801-1809), gave instructions on what to put on his gravestone, he left out any mention of the presidency and instead dictated that it should read, “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” Renaissance Man that he was, Jefferson valued many things beyond his public service, among them his scientific interests. Visitors to Jefferson’s famous home, Monticello, outside the Virginia town of Charlottesville (where we met, got married, and our girls were born before we started moving around the country and the world) can learn about Jefferson’s scientific instruments and the daily weather observations he kept for over 50 years regardless of whether he resided at Monticello or his more remote Bedford County retreat Poplar Forest; in Paris as the U.S. Minister to France; or in Philadelphia, New York, or Washington, D.C. as he filled various political roles stretching from the Continental Congress through his presidency. Describing the daily ritual of keeping his meteorological diary, he said, “My method is to make two observations a day, the one as early as possible in the morning, the other from 3. to 4. aclock, because I have found 4. aclock the hottest and day light the coldest point of the 24. hours. I state them in an ivory pocket book. . . , and copy them out once a week.” But this weather fascination went beyond mere fancy. He included a chapter on climate in his 1785 book Notes on the State of Virginia that he published to demonstrate the superiority of America over stodgy old Europe; and, after taking daily readings during the five years he lived in France, he had no doubt that America’s “cheerful” sunny climate exceeded that of Europe. [Thanks to Monticello’s website for the useful Jefferson details.]
All of that is to say that people, who read through our collection of posts and note that weather and climate seem to capture our focus as much as any other topic as we endeavor to share our expat experience, should know we are in good company when it comes to making weather an essential element to understanding our life in Morocco.
Back in July, our Starting Year Four post included a photo showing the view from our apartment’s balcony looking across fields toward the Atlantic about a mile away. The picture reveals just how brown everything gets as the dry season progresses from Spring through late-Fall. In February 2018, our second year in Morocco, we wrote in Alyiali: Waiting for the Warming, or Just for the Dang Cold to be Done about how we start each new calendar year in Casablanca with a continuous streak of cold, wet, gray days and blustery winds that make it colder inside our concrete buildings than outside them. That “dang cold” streak ran especially long that year, especially when compared to the burst of color from wildflowers blooming that we highlighted in a post at the same time the year before in our “Winter: The Growing Season” post.
Which brings us to now, when we have moved from wondering earlier in the week how long we would have to ration our limited supply of firewood to heat our apartment to the almost spring-like weather we have enjoyed since Mother Nature flipped a switch midweek. Coupled with December also being less cold and wet than in some years, we have enjoyed an early greening of Morocco to start 2020. The first wildflowers have peaked out in the last few days, with a rainbow of color soon to come if the weather does not turn cold again for more than a few days at a time.
And today, just one-third of the way through January, we looked out from our balcony at that same view from last July to see quite a different scene. The winter rains have replaced last summer’s unified barren brown with vivacious hues of green that welcome back cows and sheep to feast happily instead of pawing brown clods in hope of turning over a few bites of dried grass.
We bear no illusion that cold, wet, gray days have disappeared for good. More will come through January and February; but the streak of them that continues unbroken for weeks seems short-lived this year. Even our balcony garden, highlighted in our post The Balcony a couple weeks after the Alyiali post in February 2018, has declared its desire to jumpstart the growing season that has brought clementines and oranges and has started to bring nectarines, peaches, and all sorts of berries to produce sellers. As temperatures began to cool last Fall, Brian decided to drop basil seeds into some of our balcony boxes in hopes of having winter basil. After the first seeding failed to sprout he tried and failed again, and then again before giving up and figuring we would have to buy cut basil until plants would be available at Arborescence and other nurseries in late-Spring. This week, though, our balcony garden surprised him with the long-forgotten basil seeds sprouting to life. The seedings had not failed; they simply refused to respond to too-cool temperatures and chose to hibernate instead. Now we have little basils popping up all over, promising a hearty supply once the two-leaf sprouts mature into fragrant plants waiting to be cut.
This is our favorite time of year in Morocco. Knowing that after this year we might enjoy it only as visitors returning to see Charlotte and her family, we relish that it has come a little early and hope it will stay a little late.
On your mark, get set, here we go!