Weird Weather

According to our joint meteorological memory, this weather is weird. Nobody remembers its getting this cold this quickly and this early. It's as though we've skipped much of Mud Season and have gone pellmell into early winter, without getting the chance to get slowly acclimatized. I can remember times of the opposite persuasion--times in spring when we seemed to get precipitated head-over-heels into summer. But normally, we get a chance to get used to the idea of winter before it actually jumps on us. Not this year, it seems. It's turned cold enough that touching a car without gloves on is a penitential act. All the household cold drafts (there are many; we should name them, like prevailing winds) are now up and running strong. We stand tiptoe on the leading edge of winter, and it's only November, fergawdsake.

Contrary to what people may think, few of the Canadians I know talk much about the weather. There's a reason for this. We don't want to get depressed. From the tumble of the last leaf to the arrival of the next green, we have to live through about six weeks of Fall Mud Season, three full months of High Winter, and another couple of months of Spring Mud Season. And this is southern Canada, the balmy part of the country. Actually, High Winter's not so bad: it can be really beautiful and sometimes exhilarating, although it has high nuisance value. But Mud Season is terribly wearing on the spirit.

If we actually thought much about the weather, if we stared at the grey skies lowering over a stripped-down grey-brown landscape, and said to ourselves, "another six months till spring", we'd probably spend all our time sagging up against the doorframe and feeling sorry for ourselves, which does not get the dishes washed or the paycheque earned. In general, higher consciousness is a Good Thing, but not in Mud Season. Perhaps this is the reason why people who are clearly depressed have so much trouble admitting they're depressed: depression is so damned *depressing*.

No: this is a situation that a person has to take one day at a time, murmuring the mantra "This too will end." After a few years in this country, you learn to raise or lower your consciousness like a gopher poking its head out of its hole: sunshine, a beautiful fresh fall of snow, a brilliant January sky, the burst of pigeons up from the old hotel rooftop, the weird electric blue of snow at dusk--these moments of beauty get your instant undivided attention. The rest of the time, you do your best to ignore. You minimize the attention you're willing to give it and get on with the business of living. It's a way of coping.

Maybe this isn't such a bad paradigm for dealing with the blahs of any kind, spiritual included, this knack of selective attention. I'm not thinking of Pollyanna-ism: that would be like saying, "Oh goodie! Slush! What fun!" Slush isn't fun. Black ice isn't fun either, and neither is freezing fog. But we have the choice of giving worth to whatever beauty is on offer without demanding that the whole world be beautiful. We can see clearly enough the chills and blahs of February (which some think should be called Foreverary), dress warmly enough for the weather, without wallowing in the misery of it.

Oh, there's plenty of yuckiness out there: Mud Season, sin, global warming, natural disasters, hurts and harms of all sorts, to all conditions of human- and nonhumankind. We'd be nuts to pretend this world is okay. It isn't; and to the degree that we can help set it to right, we should do so--although I would personally rank a ban on SUVs well above "confronting sin in love", which is so often just rampant self-righteousness.

But we can look at this world with patient love or with impatient judgment. This is Canada; we are heading into winter. We've got to be ready to love what winter has to offer and be patient with the parts that aren't so appealing.

I know a man who scans the horizon constantly, looking for evidence of insult and rejection: if he can grab from his surroundings a comment that he can construe as hurtful, he'll be hurt; if he can misinterpret a gesture as rejection, he will feel rejected; and then he blows up and hurts and rejects the people who (he believes) have hurt and rejected him, when in fact they weren't doing anything of the sort. He is not a happy person, I can tell you.

But he only does on a grand, destructive scale what so many of us do in lesser and less obvious ways: to pick out and inflate whatever we don't like about this life, this world, while neglecting to recognize or give thanks for the moments of God's grace. It's so easy to do. It's so easy to concentrate on the wretchedness of early March and miss all the hopefulness of it.

Okay, I don't really want to "do" winter this year, or at least not quite yet; I'd sooner turn the clock back and have another month or two of September. But I live in Canada, and we "do" winter here. In fact, I live in one of the milder regions of Canada; the winters up north and out west are legendary. I have always, now that I think of it, lived with winter, and for more than half a century, I've always got through it in one piece and with more than a few moments of real happiness. There is, after all, almost nothing more beautiful than walking through falling snow to the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Still, maybe it's time I got the boots out....

Copyright © 2000 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 18 Nov 2000
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