Wednesday, January 8, 2014

"Wow, Some Weather We've Been Having," Said Everybody

Massanutten mountain: It was even colder up there
I can't think of anything that will be less "news" to you (if you live in the USA) than another story about how crazy nuts cold it has been this week!

But it is the main event that has been on our minds (not to mention our bodies) during this past week. Americans have been briefly united by a snowstorm and the "polar vortex" that came in its wake and brought ice-age temperatures to much of the nation.

And I know, my dear northeastern and midwestern friends, that you had the worst of it. Of course, you took it in stride because you are the toughest and just simply the most rugged people. Frozen winters? Mosquito infested summers? Hey, I bow to you. Okay? ;)

Still, it was freaky freezing here in Virginia and points further south.

We all felt like brothers and sisters this week, as we braved First World Problems in their most dire form: How to get the car started when it's one degree (that's fahrenheit, which means -17 celsius); how to get from the car to the nearest heated building without getting blown off our feet by 40 mph winds; how to get to the car at all (for those of us who had lots of snow); and -- by far the most desperate problem -- how to entertain ourselves during the days when we were stuck inside the house.

Some snow. Some sunshine. Our house looks cozy. Nobody went out to play!
Winter is interesting because, really, nobody can control it. We try to control it by watching the Weather Channel obsessively, but it still comes upon us and asserts itself. Suddenly, we all feel small and needy. We help one another out. We talk to our neighbors. We think about where we are going, take our time, and are grateful for whatever we manage to do.

In snow and cold, we are all realists. It's something in front of us, not a fabrication of our self-posturing. We have to deal with it, and it establishes the method by which we must proceed. People have profound disagreements about methods when it comes to politics and economics, but everyone knows that snow must be shoveled and scraped, and that we must be well protected against the cold.

This is the face of bravery and boldness
And this is the face of cuteness. In her best coat.
Everybody knows it's cold; we can feel it. (boy can we feel it!) No one thinks of being ideological about the fact that we need to bundle up. I didn't see anyone walking on the street this week in just shorts or a bathing suit, and claiming that they didn't "believe in cold." Imagine some guy: "I'm a warmist. This cold is just an oppressive structure imposed by the meteorological elites (or 'the government,' or a lack of tolerance for temperature diversity, or whatever)."

"You're a 'warmist'?" I'd say, through my scarf. "I'm a human being. Either you get inside or I'm calling 911 so that someone can come and get you and prevent you from freezing to death."

That's why weather is such a universal topic of conversation. It's something we all have in common, and it reminds us (implicitly) of many of the deeper things we have in common, the things that motivate us to deal with the weather because it's a factor in our real lives, an aspect of reality that we cannot ignore or censor from our awareness just because it doesn't fit in with our projects.

It reminds us that being human is a mystery, a gift, and a responsibility.

[By the way: Always keep an outdoor extension chord around the house. A LONG one. If the starter lock in your car doesn't turn because it's frozen because the car has been out all night because you don't have a garage (you have a carport) because you live in "the South" where things like this don't happen... you'll need a hot air blow dryer. And plenty of patience.]