Recall, just a few days ago as you read this, our delightful little spring snowstorm. As I write, it is Monday morning, looks like full-on January outside, and they’re saying we are to have another round of this Tuesday night. I had supposed that we wouldn’t get the snow here Safely Out to Sea, but we’re all nicely Currier and Ives for the moment, which does defy the odds. I’m not complaining.

Everybody’s an expert, when you start in talking about weather, but out here pretty much everybody is. I am always surprised to hear how much mainland people count on the “weather channel” types and don’t have quick-links to seventeen marine, aviation, mountaintop and spot forecast sites and a weather station of their own.

Recently we helpful committee members, all being experts in meteorology just like the rest of the general public, got into an exercised discussion of forecasting at the Maine Public Community Advisory Board meeting. That, by the way, is where a few of us random community-spirited types get together and compare notes with the public broadcasting stationmasters about how long the opera is, and Downton Abbey, and whatever happened to Car Talk, and all that Peter Paul and Mary stuff during pledge week, and Brit Coms, and why is it always Poldark, and Downton Abbey, and does anybody use the online services, and Downton Abbey, and how frequently to broadcast the weather on the radio, and how relevant any forecast is to where the random Maine listener is actually standing, and Lou McNally.

The weather folks on TV and radio concern themselves mostly with the weather vertically — how much of what substance might fall out of the sky. Here, we’re generally more interested in the weather horizontally, meaning how hard it is going to blow and from which direction. I’ve told the story before about when I first moved here back in the ’80s and asked one of the fishermen what the weather was for the next day. He replied, “It’s supposed to come around sou’west.” That is all. From that, I was expected to extrapolate anything else I might wish to know about temperature, precipitation, fog, or whether to water the beans. The thing is, after a little bit of experience, you get so you can.

We want to know if it’s going to be “flyable.” That’s the important word. Flyable means you can see, and can safely land on, our short strip. Flyable means it isn’t foggy, and it isn’t raining or snowing hard enough to obstruct visibility, and there aren’t thunderstorms or dangerous downdrafts or icing conditions aloft, and the crosswind is not too bad, and the airstrip itself is not a skating rink.

Of course, flyable does not mean it has to be calm. I prefer to fly (myself) when the air is smooth (yeah, right) but some of our pilots are quite expert at aviating in the maelstrom. The foam is flying off the water, random items such as resin chairs, milk crates, lengths of PVC pipe, etc. are flying around the dooryard, seagulls are flying backwards, and pilot “Ketchikan Mike” Falconeri is flying sideways.

A few other highly scientific meteorological expressions you might hear around my house:

“Boiled owl sh*t.” That’s an Albert Bunker-ism and refers to an impenetrable fog, a common experience here which Albert referred to as “thicker’n boiled owl sh*t.” Of all the types of, um, “guano” that a lobsterman might encounter, I’d think the droppings of the owl might be among the less conspicuous. Whatever.

“Squirrely” has nothing to do with the furry critters who ransack your bird feeders. We actually do not have any squirrels on Matinicus (and don’t get any bright ideas). That precision technical term refers to the erratic multi-axis gusting and turbulence common to the end of certain airstrips, including ours. It can make the landing approach feel like riding down a flight of steps on a bicycle.

“Telephone tower,” as in “I can’t see the telephone tower.” The 100-foot tower that supports the phone company microwave dish infrastructure that serves this island is roughly a third of a mile from our place, and when it starts to disappear into the fog you can be sure you won’t be getting your box today.

“Three-piece suit,” something my husband has always held against weathermen. You can ask him yourself.

“Behind you,” which is where you might hope “it” is when going any distance by small boat on a rough day, as in “Don’t worry; it’ll be behind you.” This reassuring comment is typically offered by somebody standing flat-footed on the wharf and rather obviously not aboard the boat, and who has no intention of boarding the boat. Sometimes it is not exactly clear just what is behind you. The kraken, maybe.