The Phenomenon of Weather by Jamie Kirkpatrick


For a string of days last week, we baked in the oven of summer. Relentless heat: grey, blazing, steamy days; airless nights. The thermometer in my car registered triple digits. What we wouldn’t give for just one cool breeze!

Then suddenly we all felt it: that moment when a cold front miraculously swept through town and turned all those hot, sultry summer days into a breezy delight. The sky turned blue again; the humidity drained away and all that still, soggy air became a refreshing zephyr caressing our cheeks. We perked up. We felt reborn. It was fun to be outdoors again.

It was just a cold front, the weather girl informed us, nothing more than a transition zone during which a mass of colder air replaces a mass of warmer air, or in our case, a mass of really hot air. (Cold fronts generally move from northwest to southeast so maybe our kind Canadian neighbors are still speaking to us after all!) We felt immediate relief because the air behind a cold front is noticeably colder and drier than the air ahead of it. The phenomenon of weather, simply and scientifically explained.

But it wasn’t always that way…

Helen, beautiful Helen, Helen of the face that launched a thousand ships and burned the topless towers of Illium, has been seduced and stolen away from her husband King Menelaus of Sparta by handsome Paris, Prince of Troy. The honor of Greece has been egregiously offended. For months, Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon have been plotting revenge, gathering a vast army to rescue Helen and bring her home. Achilles, the greatest of all Greek warriors, has been strangely delayed (that’s another story) but eventually he arrives, and the armada that has been patiently waiting on the beach at Aulis is ready to descend on Troy and destroy it.

But on the morning of departure, the wind suddenly dies. Airless hot days descend and the fleet is becalmed. A month passes. Then two. The men grow restless; fights break out. Someone must have angered the gods. Agamemnon senses disaster and devises a plan: he proposes that he bring his youngest daughter Iphigenia to Aulis and give her to Achilles in marriage because the gods love nothing more than a good wedding feast! Five days later, she arrives amid great pomp, but instead of a wedding ceremony, Agamemnon suddenly pins her to the garlanded altar that has been prepared and slashes her throat—a human sacrifice to the goddess of war Artemis. The blood splashes on the tunic of the stunned Achilles but at the very moment Iphigenia dies, the assembled throng feels a cool wind blow across their cheeks. Sails billow. The goddess has been appeased. The next morning, the armada sails away to Troy and into history.

The phenomenon of weather, simply and anciently explained.

So take your pick. Maybe it was nothing more than a cold front from Canada that cooled us off last week or maybe the gods were angry at some human insult and demanded restitution. (Apparently there was a big wedding in town over the weekend.) Either way, things have cooled off for a bit, at least for now.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is



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