I woke to the sound of a downpour. The rain was not a gentle pitter-patter, but more of a pounding on the house's metal roof. I tried to roll over and go back to sleep, but my curiosity had wakened me fully, so I climbed out of bed and made my way down the cabin’s log stairs to check the temperature gauge. It was almost 50 degrees at five o'clock on this early January morning.

I usually buy an almanac just to check up on weather predictions for the coming year, but for some reason I had not purchased the latest edition. Our wood pile sets plentifully full of split wood waiting to be burned. The fields are muddy, and I need to trim the little horses' tails so that mud balls do not accumulate at the tips and make it difficult for them to swish away the curiously flying mid-winter insects.

The creek runs high, and I have already seen daffodil and daylily shoots three inches above the surface of the damp ground.

I have even noticed swollen buds on several trees along the creek. Perhaps I really should go get a copy of that almanac, but no matter what the book predicts, the weather will still do exactly what it will. Yet, I am curious.

And then there are the towering sycamore trees that line the creek banks. I have learned that every year, because of their rapid growth, the sycamores shed their bark, leaving a younger layer exposed to the weather.

I have often gathered up the large, thin sheets, white on one side and gray on the other, to use as parchment for writing letters to my grandchildren, but what I have learned from my country friends is that the sycamore’s bark can be used to predict the coming winter. If the newly exposed bark, under the just shed layer, is bright white, then the winter will be cold and snowy.

If the new bark is a darker more reddish shade, then the winter will be warm and wet. So I have been looking at the sycamores along the creek. Some of the trees are so large and old that their centers are completely hollow. There is one tree into which I can completely crawl and still have room for several grandchildren by my side. This tree is likely three hundred years old, maybe more.

But as I look at the bark under the just shed layer, I see mottled spots ranging from colors of white, to gray, to a dark reddish brown. The bark along the upper branches is snowy white. Perhaps the tree is telling me that the winter will have some snow, some rain, and be wet, warm, and cold. I do not know.

And then there are the woolly bears. Even as a child growing up in the city, I had learned that these caterpillars could predict the coming winter. Perhaps the reason that I knew about them as a city child, was because we often saw them inching their way across the pavers in the park across the street from our brownstone home.

Our father told us that the worms had only two coats to wear for the winter, a warm black one, and a lighter brown one. If the worms were wrapped in their wide brown coats, then the winter would be mild, but if they were snuggled mostly in their warmer black coats, then the winter would be severe.

He also said, with a smile, that if we found the worms traveling toward the southern end of the park, that they were trying to escape an oncoming harsh winter and were headed for warmer southern climes. Our mother explained, in her more motherly fashion, that the wooly bears listened well to their own mothers, and would put on their large, warm, black winter hats and tall black boots to get ready for a cold winter.

This past summer, I shook my head to imagine that the wooly bears’ mothers really did not know how to dress their offspring. When Greg and I would find them on our walks along the creek road, some wore moderately sized black hats and boots. Others were completely black, while still others were mostly brown.

I was curious as to what this could mean. Perhaps, like the sycamore, the wooly bears were telling us that this winter would have some snow, some rain, and be wet, warm and cold.

Again, I do not know.

So, I am still curious as to what to expect for the rest of the winter, but I do know that the weather will do, without a doubt, whatever it is that it is going to do. I also know that I am not the first one to have made this nebulous prediction, though without any doubt at all, this is one prediction on which we can all count, with complete and absolute certainty.