Hot and Bothered: Thoughts on the Weather

It looks like a lovely day, but the graffiti added during a recent heatwave reads "Fuck the System." I've dubbed this mound Malcontent Rock.

It looks like a lovely day, but the graffiti added during a recent heatwave reads “Fuck the System.” I’ve dubbed this mound Malcontent Rock.

Some people never look at the weather report. I do not understand this. I’m the opposite. Daily, maybe several times a day, I turn to the weather sites or my barometer and see what the numbers are behind the world I’m presently living in. Yeah, I’m a nerd.

I think some of us (meaning me) are more in tune with the fact that we’re on this planet, we’re a part of this whirling gig in the sky — a constant flux of pressure and moisture, ebb and flow.

Weather isn’t just incidental to life, like we somehow think it to be in our cushy modern times. Take a look at the Dust Bowl of the ‘30s, those massive sandstorms people said would “black out the sun” and turn day into night. The furious wrath of nature barreling down in biblical proportions. Tales are told of one late-’30s dust storm that blew for three days, so high and so hard that dust from the Midwest blew clear past Chicago to the Big Apple.

Hell hath no fury like Earth and her stormy portents. These days, the dust storms are rising again. Twice in a month I’ve seen Phoenix’s dusty blowers making a little viral noise with videos showing dust enveloping everything in sight. The hottest and driest it’s been since records have been kept, the Midwest and Southwest might be just starting what’s cooking in those big dusty storms.

Mostly Cloudy and Hot

I’m thinking about weather today because, for the first time in a few days, my wrath-of-God anger is subsiding. That “Everything is Stupid” post has been my prevailing wind since the weekend, and it’s only now letting up a bit.
I think often of Joan Didion’s story on the Santa Ana winds and the murderous, violent mood that can consume Southern California when they blow, sending divorce in the stratosphere, escalating violence and suicide, and spreading a general malaise through the populace. Experts surmise it’s an abundance of negative ions on the wind, but then again, who knows? The essay opens with the following:

There is something uneasy in the Los Angeles air this afternoon, some unnatural stillness, some tension.  What it means is that tonight a Santa Ana will begin to blow, a hot wind from the northeast whining down through the Cajon and San Gorgonio Passes, blowing up sand storms out along Route 66, drying the hills and the nerves to flash point.  For a few days now we will see smoke back in the canyons, and hear sirens in the night.  I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too.  We know it because we feel it.  The baby frets.  The maid sulks.  I rekindle a waning argument with the telephone company, then cut my losses and lie down, given over to whatever it is in the air.  To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.

It feels like those wrathful winds have been blowing here. Even my hippy organic “buy local” storeowner friend yesterday told me she wanted to face-punch a little do-goodie moaning about Walmart earlier in the day. I laughed. If she wants to face-punch people, then I’m not evil — I’m just a reflection of my environment. Literally.

For this fleeting moment, our heatwave is enjoying the slightest of breaks but the heat’s forecast to continue for weeks. I’m sure I’ll hear of at least one divorce in my circles by its end, if not a stabbing.

photo 2

Nature isn’t Opt-In

We’re spoiled. We live in lovely homes, drive weather-proof cars, ride covered buses, carry umbrellas, wear Goretex, and seldom experience weather we can’t choose to ignore.

Now and then, the Earth decides otherwise. Maybe a storm blows through or flood hits or three weeks of snow falls, but most of us living in the modern world experience little of nature that isn’t an opt-in situation. Hell, I work from home. Nature’s pretty much an opt-out for me, most days.

And so farmers laugh at us. We think weather’s like ordering extra channel packages on the cable service.

The farmer knows otherwise. “Oh, look. Little city girl is ‘choosing’ to ‘walk to work’ in the rain. How cute. Aww, an umbrella that’s so big she’ll be lucky if she don’t blind a pedestrian.”

photo 1A Furious Vengeance

Ever since the first human began farming, we have lived and died by the moods of Mother Earth. Whether you ate comfortably for the year all came down to the crops you grew in the harvest seasons. Weather wasn’t an incidental, it was everything.

Volcanoes erupting, sinkholes gaping, tsunamis rolling ashore, dust storms engulfing whole regions — all of these leave us pretty much powerless when Earth decides it’s having a shitty day.

Beyond the Santa Ana winds, weather affects us more than we realize. I’m one of those “human barometers” who can tell you just by the way my head feels if there’s a shift in the barometer coming. If vertigo hits me, a big bank of fog threatens to roll ashore. If rain for days is coming to land, I’m struck a general funk and low-energy mood that mirrors the “low-pressure” front impending.

I don’t consider myself a freak, I’m just really living on this Earth. I feel it. I sense when things are changing. And I like it. I like knowing that my environment affects me in all kinds of ways. Life, to me, feels like a dynamic thing I’m in the middle of, and sometimes the ride is unpleasant, but that’s just how the low pressure front rolls.

Next time you wonder why you’re in such a funk when it’s “perfect” summer weather, remember there’s way more to that hot air than you think.