Saturday, July 23, 2011

A 19th century sampling of weather in July: the stuff of small talk: a hands on thing to do.

Charles Peirce religiously chronicled the weather in Philadelphia for 57 years from January, 1790 to January 1847. This was not the same, great American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce who also had a keen interest in the weather, but an earlier, modest Peirce who started off as a bookseller and newspaper publisher in Portsmouth NH.
Google has digitalized  his vast ouevre of weather gleanings which was bequeathed to Harvard University shortly after he died - and it's online for all to read.
Below are but a few excerpts to give you a taste, which in our time, with the cloud of global warming hanging over us -  gives his or any work on weather, a special significance.

conté and compressed charcoal gesture  on newsprint 30"x36

July was always an iffy month - but when you look through his records you realize that all the months were potentially iffy and July could really give you a run for your money! 

1838 strikes a chord:
1838 The medium temperature of this month was 81 and it was the warmest month in this vicinity that we have on our record for several years On eighteen days during midday the mercury rose to 90 and above on two of these days it rose to 96 in the shade but being placed for thirty minutes in the full rays of the sun at mid day it rose to 143 A small quantity of rain fell on six days making in all two and a quarter inches but only in one instance was the atmosphere cooled after a thunder shower and in this instance it was cooler only for a few hours There were twenty one fair hot and dry days.

Let's try an earlier account from 1793:
1793 The medium temperature of this month was 81 and there was a great deal of excessively hot and dry weather All the rain that fell was during some violent thunder gusts The mercury was from 90 to 96 in the shade on ten days and from 84 to 89 on fifteen days Vegetation suffered very much for rain There was a great mortality among the flies .

compressed charcoal on kraft paper 30"x36"

Sometimes it rained:
1842 The medium temperature of this month was 74 This was indeed a month of thunder showers and great destruction by lightning and torrents of rain also by wind and hail The month commenced with the mercury at 90 From five to seven o clock PM on the first day there was one of the most awful thunder storms passed over this city and vicinity ever experienced by the present generation The peals of thunder were astounding and the lightning the most terrific ever beheld and the rain poured down in such torrents for two and a half hours that several of the streets in the eastern part of the city were covered to the depth of two feet and many basements and cellars completely filled and a great amount of goods destroyed During this shower nearly six inches of rain fell The lightning struck and consumed several barns in the vicinity of the city and several houses were struck in the city and liberties also several persons were stunned Some rain also fell on twelve other days principally in showers making in all which fell during the month twelve inches which is the greatest quantity in any one month we can find on record.

Let's end on a positive note!:
1817 The medium temperature of this month was 74 The weather during this month was a continuation of the splendid weather of the previous month The farmer rejoiced at having such a pleasant season for gathering in his early harvest which was very abundant Fertilizing showers and warm sunshines caused the earth to bring forth luxuriantly Indeed the earth and the trees were literally loaded with every good thing Thunder showers were very frequent and a healthier season thus far has not been experienced for many years.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


 I was perhaps the most refreshed and reflective person on my  street  as I lay, for the second time mid morning,  immersed  in a  five foot tub filled with cold water that I had drawn earlier  around 2:30 am. I lay there for a good 5 to 10 minutes - without shivering, allowing my mind to drift, feeling tranquil and clever. 
No air conditioners, no palm trees,  but fans, open windows and good cross ventilation in an airy house -  if one can get the air to move. I couldn't persuade my husband to follow my   example - he ran screaming from my suggestion telling me that I was a seal. 

oil on cardboard painted late June on outskirts of Dundas
on a very slippery shellac ground.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Production mode

This morning when I emptied the coffee grounds into the green compost container I was greeted with a frenzy of fruit flies - drosophila melanogaster – they were eager for the coffee grounds or curious at least -  but would have I’m sure, preferred a banana peel – later, I said. I admire their industry but would be happy if it could take place  elsewhere. 
Now since I've returned from my swim, I no longer see them - I accept their disappearance with a sigh of relief.

Study of a standing figure below from a Sunday in June.

oil on canvas board 14"x18"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer mode

Summer is characterized by long hours of light, the illusion of endless days and the allure of bodies of water in which to bathe – i.e. swim, keep cool. Moreover I have an allegiance to summer because I was born in June – I specifically requested  that birth date even before I knew my parents. 
I abide by simple pleasures and cultivate euphoric states, an inner dreaminess which I work at sustaining well into autumn. 
Heavenly summer – books to read, some of them gothic, Edith Wharton (yikes), a bicycle to ride – obviously one never grows up nor intends to.  If tomorrow for some reason I complain bitterly and you never know, I might – it will become apparent I’m not consistent.

The painting below was done early evening a few weeks ago on the outskirts of Dundas.

oil on gessoed panel 12"x16"