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April 4, 2008

April Showers Bring May Flowers

So, when I arrived on campus today, it was 60 degrees out and sunny. I biked to class in springtime glory, soaking in the warmth and trying to hide my face upon remembering that I forgot to put sunscreen on. It was wonderful. I even wore leggings and a skirt, and wasn't cold at all. Feeling the warm air, listening to the birds chirp, watching children play outside and mothers walking their babies in strollers... all of it made me forget how quickly things can change.

I was in Shakespeare class, not so much bored but still hopelessly trying not to nod off (I think it's more the time of day and not so much the content or the drone of my professors voice that makes this a regular occurrence) when I noticed the weather changing. It seemed as though a dark cloud was moving in, "could it be rain?" I wondered. I hoped that it wasn't, I had on a silk skirt that I don't like getting wet, and who likes biking home in the rain anyhow? Class ended and it only seemed to be getting darker, and by the time I got outside it was sprinkling. Looking around I noticed that there was definite blue sky beyond the rain cloud, and I thought I might be able to get home without getting too wet. So off I went.

Not far off of campus, I happened to look towards downtown and saw the prettiest puffs of dark cloud with wafts of rain trailing down like delicate spiderplants formed out of stardust. The trail of rain seemed to fit in so well with the tall buildings of downtown, continuing the pillar of gray color where the buildings reach their height and the rain begins. The sight of rain moving in from the distance is one of my favorite sights, even when it occurs at the most inconvenient moments. It reminded of when I was a child, and my dad and I were out fishing on a lake up north. We were visiting a family members cabin and because it was a beautiful day, we took out that persons small boat with an old motor. We were pretty far out in the lake when we noticed the weather begin to change, and over a line of trees behind us, a line of black clouds with sheets of dark rain became visible. because I wanted to feel grown up or something, I was steering the boat, which was controlled by a handle coming off of the motor at the back of the boat. When we saw the rain, I quickly turned the boat around to head home. The only problem was that I turned the motor to quick, and the handle attached broke off just as the boat began to turn, and we were suddenly spinning around in circles. Whilst spinning, my dad and I had to switch spots so that he could control the motor, and then we started for home, a little shaken and very dizzy. We arrived back to shore in the knick of time, and got into the cabin just in time to see the wave of rain come upon us. It's a humbling experience to see the fury of nature come upon you like an opposing army.

So as I was biking home today, I thought that I was in the clear, and was going to make it home with out getting too wet. That was when it started to hail on me. It was only small hail, pieces of ice surrounded by snow being thrown on me like on me like trick snowballs in a snowball fight. It wasn't too bad until the rain got heavier and I was quickly very soaked with water. I wasn't really too upset, It was kind of fun to be out in the first real rain of the year. The one crack of thunder I heard made me feel all the more heroic. The only thing that was not fun was the wind blowing against me, making ever pedal feel like my hardest gear. It reminded me of a storm that we had late last summer. The storm I'm thinking of was a real storm, where everything is suddenly eerily still, and then a rolling black cloud moves in with fierce wind and crackling thunder. Thankfully my evening class was canceled that day, and I just sat in my room watching the storm move in. Suddenly though, I remembered that my roommate Clara had class, and I quickly darted out of my room to offer her a ride to campus. But she was already gone. "Why would she leave knowing the fury that was about to be poured down on us?" I asked her boyfriend. He just shrugged his shoulders in a typical way. When Clara came home hours later, I demanded and answer to my question. She said that she knew what she was getting into, and wanted to know what it would be like, despite the danger. Apparently it wasn't too bad, the hail didn't hurt and the wind didn't knock her down, but there was a massive puddle flowing out from where she sat in class, which was a little embarrassing. My experience today was nothing like that.

By the time I arrived home today, it was once again sunny and calm, no more rain or wind. The birds were chirping and my cats were waiting eagerly for my return so that they could go outside and enjoy the sun. My clothes are now drying as I sit and type, and I'm feeling very happy that it is finally spring.

February 15, 2008

weather or not

I really love the weather. Not just the weather today, but the weather as a concept, as a thing that is predictable but not controllable, and thing that limits what we can and cannot do in any given place and time in the world. Everyday is defined by what the weather does, how cold it is, if it rains or snows, etc. I love that it is one aspect of nature that people have not yet found a way to manipulate, it is an aspect of nature that still gives people daily anxiety. Granted, the weather sometimes causes bad things to happen, there are floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc; but that is just part of life.

Everyday when I wake up, one of the first things I think is: I wonder that the weather will be like today? It must be a question that many people ask, because if you turn on the daily news, you'll find that every news station devotes at least 10 minutes to describing, in detail, and reiterating over and over, what the weather will be like that day, and what it will be like for the rest of the week. On these news programs the weather gets very sensationalized, there are strong storm/snow storm warnings, advice on what to do if caught in a storm, exaggerations about weather situations, montages of extreme weather and the weathermen who got you through, etc. Weather seems to be an extreme source of anxiety in our society. Which is not to say that people shouldn't take the weather seriously, I for one do not like driving afters it has snowed, but enough is enough.

Almost everyday, not matter what the weather is like, wherever you go there will be people talking about the weather. Today it is -4 degrees outside, I personally am debating on whether or not I should bike to class, which I probably will end up doing. I am certain that when I get to campus I will overhear countless conversations about how darn cold it is and how everyone wishes it would be spring. Well it is not spring, and I wish that people could appreciate the weather for what it is today. Today it is cold, that's true, and it's also cloudy and gray, but that can still be enjoyable. There is snow on the ground, which brightens things up, the snow is clean since it just snowed a couple of days ago, it's not -15, it's not windy. I think it could be a pretty good day.

In the paragraph before this I completely lied. I do wish that the sun was out, too many cloudy days in a row gives me a headache. I'm glad it's not windy, but I do miss the sun. While I might not be totally happy with the weather today, I do appreciate the fact that there is this part of nature that effects me to such a degree on a daily basis. Maybe it makes me feel closer to nature, or to the past when there were less options about dealing with the weather, or maybe it makes me feel tough and rustic, I don't know. I do know that yesterday I enjoyed the challenge of biking through day old snow, it made me feel alive.

For every type of weather there is a mood. I recently read a couple of short stories that relied completely on the weather to keep the story moving. One of these stories was "To Build a Fire" by Jack London. In this story a man ventures out into the Alaskan wilderness while it is -75 degrees outside. The story is about dying out in the cold. This story wouldn't exist it is weren't for the weather. The other story I read is actually a short novel, "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. This story takes place in New Orleans, where weather dictates the mood more that what people are actually feeling.

I happened to live in New Orleans for a couple of semesters, which is where I discovered the true power of nature. The defining feature of New Orleans for me is it's overwhelming, stifling, spicy, thick, hot, moldy, smelly, sweet, clinging, drowning humidity. Summer in New Orleans is like swimming through the hot thick air. This humidity clings to you like life and death, it dictates what your limits are as a human, what activity you are capable of before you need to stop moving. I love New Orleans humidity. It was more like an old friend, always with me, surrounding me wherever I went, getting into my head until I couldn't think clearly. I used to go out walking everyday, just walk and walk and walk. Following my senses, feeling the air, just walking outside gave me some of the best experiences of my life.

Its hard to have a clear grasp on reality when it's that hot and humid, especially if your in New Orleans. Anxiety, danger, real threats; they all seem to disappear in a sweaty heap of relaxation, almost. By some horrible coincidence I happened to be on a road-trip in August of 2005, and towards the end of the month I was visiting my friends in New Orleans. People in that part of the country always live with the threat of hurricanes, and eventually it just gets annoying and you try to ignore it, only leaving when the threat seems inevitable, and sometimes not even then. When the news reports that this hurricane Katrina might be heading towards New Orleans, half of the people I knew up and left that day, and the other half said "fuck it" and didn't go anywhere. In the days leading up to the hurricane there was the strangest atmosphere in the city. The humidity was now filled with both anxiety, defiance and fear. Everybody was giddy. There were lines at every gas station. It was really hot outside. The weather, this ominous, huge thing, seemed to be targeting New Orleans, playing with it, laughing at it. I left with a car full of friends and drove to Florida a day and a half before it hit. Every one knows what happened then.

The weather has an ability to destroy people or to make them happy. During that trip to New Orleans, the weather in the form of humidity and all the things that swim in it, gave me a horrible infection in my tonsils. The weather in the form of a hurricane destroyed the city that I love more that any other city in the world. The weather will always be a part of nature that we, as people, have to respect and think about in more meaningful ways than we sometimes do about other aspects of nature.