When I was a girl, there might have been meteorologists at work somewhere, and even weathermen, but not in my house. We didn’t have television yet, and the radio was for evening use, for listening to Jack Benny, or The Lux Radio Theater. My parents got news from newspapers, all of which is not news to you, I am sure.
My point is, once upon a time the only thing to alert us to the weather was the window. This was what we did: we went to the window, looked out, and saw what was happening outside. If it was raining, from sprinkle to downpour, we took an umbrella, wore an oilcloth raincoat and hat, and sometimes put on galoshes. No one drove us to school if it rained hard. We walked. No one imagined any danger in that, or that we would drown. If puddles got so high water got into our galoshes or otherwise breached the protective coverings of coat and hat, we got dry by removing those items of clothing when we got home. And no one gave us instructions on how to do this. There were no alerts, no watches, no warnings, no bulletins. If there was a snowstorm people did not have to be warned to stay home. If it got bad we stayed home. When it was cold, we bundled up and if our fingers felt numb we blew on them. No one I knew ever got frostbite and I think probably, unless you grew up in Antarctica, you will confirm that you never knew anyone who got frostbite, either. We stayed out until our faces were chapped and red, and gloves were wet and caked with snow, but then we went inside and someone gave us a cup of hot chocolate and even though our cheeks might stay chapped for a while, and our fingers might feel stiff, we all recovered. And no one had to instruct us in how to do all this, or warn us what would happen if we didn’t. We lined up our gloves on the radiators, and let them dry and if they were still a little damp when we put them on the next day, no one told us this was dangerous and would lead to a chill. We weathered the weather just fine. When it was windy, no one measured how windy. My father would say, “It blew me right up the block,” or “It blew my hat off my head,” and that would serve as a metric of the wind.
Now, I’m not saying it is not useful to have a seismological advance man to tell us when an earthquake is about to occur, or a tornado or tsunami predictor which gives people time to get to a safe place. But when it comes to ordinary weather, whether it is colder than usual or hotter than ever, I’m out of patience. And particularly, now that I’m officially a “senior citizen” I resent the constant bombardment of warnings and watchfulness that comes with the territory of living in weather.And all of it in such cautionary tones that it takes some of the joy and mystery out of simple day to day living.
Air quality. Heat index. Humidity. Cold. Wind Chill. Harmful sun rays. Wet snow. Drifting snow. Ice. Did you know, ice could fall on your head? Or you could slip on an icy path? That the next sweet kiss of the sun on your face might be the beginning of carcinoma? That the wind carries pollen and other stuff that is especially harmful to hard-breathing oldsters like me? Close your windows, cover your face.
The weather people, attractive and serious all, are worried about each and every one of us. “Let me get you guys outside,” the handsome blond man says, his oily solicitousness reaching a pinnacle as the camera pans to the sunset or the sunrise.
How about this: Let’s all tune out of the weather report and tune into the weather. Walking in the cold sunshine for a few moments was delicious, despite the dire warnings. Staying in was nice, too, these last few days, watching the snow fall, and the trees blow. No poetics to offer here beyond that. The internet is full enough of quotes, and like snowflakes, no one is like the other, but when they accumulate, they are all one, anyway. Weather.