Our mentioning of the weather–our perfunctory obsevations on what kind of day it it–are perhaps not idle. Perhaps we have a deep deep and legitimate need to know with our entire being what the day is like, to see it and feel it, to know how the sky is gray, paler in the south, with patches of blue in the southwest, with snow on the ground, the thermometer at 18, and cold wind making your ears ache. I have a real need to know these things, because I myself am part of the weather and part of the climate and part of the place. A day in which I have not shared truly in all this is no day at all.  It is certainly part of my life of prayer.

-Thomas Merton

Before moving to Central Texas two years ago, I lived for seven years in Victoria, British Columbia, which is arguably one of the most temperate (and beautiful!) cities in North America.  The weather, year in and year out, is best described as mild.  It doesn’t freeze much in the wintertime–in fact if there’s a mere quarter-inch of snow on the ground for more than a few hours the city is likely to shut down–and folks visibly begin to melt in the summer if the mercury rises above 85 degrees. All you need to do there to have a stunning, lush garden is to haphazardly drop handfuls of seeds in or near some soil, promptly forget about them, and the elements will take care of the rest. These elements are perfectly aligned to create a certain breed of weather wimps, for whom if the weather isn’t perfect (which it often is), it’s awful.

Before those seven years in the Pacific Northwest, I spent my youth and early adulthood near Montreal, where the weather is nothing if not extreme. The temperature can range over 125 degrees Fahrenheit from the depths of winter chill to the humid highs of summer.  You would think that, thus schooled for the first twenty years of my life to weather such a roller-coaster, I would’ve been tough as nails by the time I moved to Victoria and scoff at the natives’ lack of endurance, but you would be wrong.  It didn’t even take a full spin around the wheel of seasons for me to turn into as much of a weather wimp as the rest of them.

And then, I moved to Texas.

I was more than a little worried about how I would fare under the legendary Texas heat, where the average high is above 90 degrees for four months of the year, and where nothing is ever average. But, surprisingly, thankfully, I have found that I bear up pretty well under the blazing sun of Texas summers. One trick has been to not have central air conditioning in our home. It may sound counter-intuitive, but really this has helped me acclimate rather well, and I have found myself complaining less about the heat than some bona fide Texas who go from the AC blast of home to truck to office and back again. Truly, the heat’s not that big a deal–although the 100 degree days do begin to wear on a girl by October. No, what kills me is the erratic, ADD nature of the winter weather.

Consider the following snapshot of these last few days in February: yesterday and today are like a good Canadian summer’s day. It was 70 degrees at midnight last night; today will likely hit 90 degrees, and the grassy slope by the river on campus will be littered with bikinied bodies. Tomorrow, the forecasted low is 32 degrees. This is in no way atypical: going from bikinis to freezing in 20-odd hours is a positively mellow transition compared to the whiplash of cold fronts which, when they blow through, might cause the mercury to drop by 40 to 60 degrees in a matter of minutes.

This is what gets to me.  Not only do I not know from one day to the next what season it is but, often, I do not know who I am. If what Merton says about us & the weather is true–and I think it is– that what kind of day it is outside is so intimately bound up with who we are, then such wild and complete reversals of weather are likely to make one feel a little too schizophrenic for comfort. The weather my body is used to builds slowly and steadily, and remains the same for weeks and months.  My mom has a set of winter clothes, and a set of summer clothes, and on a decisive day in the hinge seasons one set is brought out to the light while another returns for its half-year stint in the cedar closet. Here, my flip-flops and knitted mitts are friendly neighbors from November to March. I cannot get grounded; I search for footing in a season–any season–and am frustrated at every turn. “Part of my life of prayer” indeed: God, make up your damn mind.

But I’d be lying if I said that it doesn’t feel nice.  Truly, it’s blissful today. I recall the words of Scripture, This is the Day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Which means, Carpe diem; which means, Sufficient onto the day is the weather thereof. I know I miss out on wonderful teachings on impermanence by struggling to find cohesion between one day’s weather and the next, and that what all this whirlwind of seasons means is that I have to learn to live in the moment. Now that, my friends, is a Texas-sized lesson.

Advertisements