I love the old wives' tales, although I'm not exactly sure who the old wives were. I picture hunched women wrapped in tattered clothing, huddled in unlit cabins crafting threatening stories based on animal behavior and rolling eyes. At the moment I'm thinking about rain, and the predictions of ancient wives. Here are some favorites:
When a donkey nods and shakes its head, it means rain is on the way.
Fleas bite more if there is a storm coming.
If the spiders are making bigger webs, the weather will be dry.
Bees will not swarm before a storm.
If a cat passes its paw behind its ear during grooming, expect rain.
Bad weather will end when your cat twists and turns.
Sure signs of rain on the way: tree leaves turned up, a rainbow in the morning, or a ring around the moon.
Dogs eating grass or robins singing loudly are sure signs of a storm approaching.
When eager bites the thirsty flea, clouds and rain you'll shortly see.
You know it will rain if pigs appear uneasy and roll in the dust.
If the rooster crows before going to bed, he'll certainly rise with a watery head.
When the cat's on the table the weather is stable, but a cat under a chair of the weather beware.
If the grass be dry at morning light, look for rain before the night.
If a spider should shy, rain will follow within a day.
Hanging three snakes on the door of a house will bring rain to the whole house.
If the sun goes pale to bed, 'twill rain tomorrow it is said.
When the wind is from the south the rain is in its mouth.
When clouds appear like rocks and towers, the earth's refreshed with frequent showers.
I really don't know much about the credibility of old wives' tales. But this weekend we're having an art show in my town...outside. I've been wringing my hands for a week while watching the weather channel. The meteorologists have said Saturday will bring a 20% chance of rain, maybe some thunderstorms, scattered rain, 30%, and now tonight the chance has risen to 50%. I'm thinking the weather folks don't have a clue what might happen, and so now I am reduced to the tattered women. I'm eyeing my cats, the cloud towers, lurking corner spiders, the leaves and the grass and the robins. I don't have pigs at my house, nor do I have roosters or donkeys or (I hope) fleas. I scan the sky, where on Wednesday there was a double rainbow over my golf course. Does this mean rain? Or sun? Where are the old wives when I need them?
Tonight I'll crawl into bed with a small, big-eared dog and cross my fingers and toes, hoping that the clouds will be good to the artists who will arrive at the park on Saturday. I'll be thinking about mules shaking their heads and swine wriggling around in the dust, pleading that no one will kill a house spider, which will surely cause a downpour. I am not a farmer, and am most certainly not an old wife. I am only a woman praying for sun on one and only one day of the year, when people will gather in a park to admire paintings and eat popcorn; where mothers will encourage children to spin art and sprawl laughing on dry grass. Weather gods: be kind. Bring us sun on June 9. And to all of you out there: don't hang snakes on front doors in central New York for surely, if you do, rain will come. Hang a rosary on a clothesline instead. My friend Angela, perhaps a modern "old wife," claims this will keep the rain at bay.