In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, while temperatures soar above 100 degrees here in Tucson, weathergrams might be just the right creative project for these strange summer days. Weathergrams are evocative, condensed poems of 10 words or less, written in calligraphy on strips of paper meant to be hung outside where the sun, wind, and rain will shape them further. Weathergrams were introduced to me by Sandy Tilcock of lone goose press in Bisbee, who graciously gifted a set of gorgeous letterpress-printed weathergrams to the Poetry Center.
Lloyd J. Reynolds, a teacher of calligraphy and founder of The Portland Society for Calligraphy, developed the idea of weathergrams. In a brief treatise on weathergrams from 1972, Reynolds describes the text as “a sudden insight,” reflective of the season but not bound to include any particular details. “When you come to write your own, forget everything you have ever read (for the moment) & just open up,” Reynolds says. In ten words or less, weathergrams express something, some image or feeling that you want to literally give a place in the world.
To make your own weathergram, find a paper grocery bag (or any similar type of paper) and cut a strip measuring 10 by 2.5 inches. Fold the top of the strip down towards the back about 1.5 to 2 inches. Next, punch a small hole through the middle of the folded portion; using any kind of string you have on hand (about 10 to 12 inches), put the string through the hole and tie with a simple knot to make a loop for hanging.
Finally, write the weathergram text onto the strip. Use your calligraphy skills, your best cursive, your true-to-you scrawl—whatever you can muster. Add some color or decoration for extra flair.*
Reynolds suggested that weathergrams should be hung outside from solstice to equinox or equinox to solstice, one season for the weather to add its mark. You might hang your weathergram outside now as a little note to the world during the pandemic, a marker of the days that are passing so differently. Or, consider mailing a weathergram to a friend; weathergrams are customarily offered as gifts and never sold. Whether you hang one up at home or share one with a friend, weathergrams are a gentle offering of attention and beauty.
*Post monsoon note: Washable markers will, in fact, wash out of paper in a hard rain! Non-washable ink recommended, or just embrace it.