Weathergrams at Hogback Mountain
by Carol Berner
Mountains, dragonflies, owls and the color green were among topics that inspired writers ages 5 to 85 who created Weathergrams at an open house hosted by the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in Marlboro, VT. Working at a picnic table overlooking the 100-mile view from the Hogback Mountain observation deck, children and adults wrote nature-inspired messages to hang from a nearby apple tree. They wonder how nature will “write” back to them with rain, wind, maybe even snow and ice: they plan to visit the tree in three months to find out.
“What’s a weathergram?” was everyone’s first question. It’s a brief message — fewer than 10 words — written on a slip of brown paper hung outdoors to “weather” in the elements. Weathergrams were invented by Lloyd Reynolds, a professor of English and Art at Reed College and a master calligrapher. He was inspired by haiku, tanka, Shinto prayer slips, and finding a fun way for students to practice calligraphy. As he explains in his directions, a weathergram (aka weather-writing) communicates the “here and now,” the “unexpected,” and the “moment of vision” experienced in nature. Nature “writes back” by weathering the brown paper, leaving intact only the red and black letters printed in indelible ink.
written by senior visiting from Wilmington
Willie, a 7th Grader who spends a lot of time at Hogback, focused intently on writing a Weathergram as soon as I showed him some examples. “I have an idea,” he told me, and bent over the slip of paper until he was finished. He carefully traced over the pencil letters with red and black indelible marker, then scouted around for just the right place to hang his message.
by Willie, Grade 7
When we looked down from the observation deck at the apple tree newly decorated with Weathergrams, the letter-writing exchange with nature had already begun. Just like the trees in Willie’s poem, the little slips of paper were swaying in the late June breeze.
Many thanks to Irene O’Garden and the Hudson Highlands Regional River of Words Program for introducing me to Weathergrams.
To find out more about Weathergrams, check out these links: