Not that many years ago, I made a startling discovery: The weather doesn’t care whether or not I approve of what it’s doing.
I mean, obviously the weather isn’t going to respond to my preferences. I know that…we all do…but that doesn’t stop us from fretting, bemoaning, cursing, praising, or merely observing what the weather is doing at any moment. (Weather, after all, is a pretty safe conversational gambit, much less risky than religion, politics, or sex, and more universally accessible than sports or entertainment. As a topic of idle conversation, weather is about as non-contentious as it gets.)
It’s surprising that so many people take it personally, when it rains on the weekend after a sunny week. It’s odd, how fatalistic some people can be about the forecast, when it suggests what the weather will be tomorrow or next week, and there’s rain predicted. (Recently I was making idle chatter with someone in the line at the grocery store, and said what a beautiful day it was. The glum reply was, “Yeah, but it’s going to rain tomorrow.”) There’s about an equal amount of gloom whether there’s a storm, or there’s the calm before a storm. The reality is that there will always be the next storm, and then the next calm. and so forth. It’s how it goes.
You can walk out of a movie or a concert if you aren’t enjoying it. You can abandon a meal if you don’t like it. But you don’t get to dismiss the weather because it isn’t what you want it to be.
Here’s what you do get: You get to choose how you’re going to respond to whatever the conditions are. As Lisa McDonald says, “It’s a choice.” There’s always a choice, to find the lesson, in deciding to find the positive in what seems to be nothing but negative. It’s always there…if you choose to look for it.
A grey sky can be oppressive, if you see it as the absence of Sun. I now prefer to see a grey sky as the presence of clouds, and enjoy what they are…their textures and shapes, the amazing variety of greys, from the almost black to shades that are like those of a dove’s feathers. I enjoy how differently fields and trees look, in the ambient light of an overcast sky, with a subtle richness in the greens and browns that isn’t there when the sun is out. I enjoy seeing rainy days as an opportunity to do things indoors, rather than seeing them as robbing me of doing things outdoors. Extreme cold and blizzards fill me with gratitude for having a warm, snug place to live, not with a sense of despair.
It’s a choice.
To paraphrase a well-known verse, there is what we have to accept because we can’t change it, there’s what must be changed, and how we need to find the courage to do that…and there’s the wisdom to figure out which is which. On any given day, the prevailing weather is something that we just need to accept, make peace with it, and find the lesson in it. Climate is a different matter altogether. Weather is a function of climate. We can–and must–act and act hugely and swiftly, to do everything possible to mitigate climate change. The choice here is between maintaining the status quo, which accelerates our headlong rush towards our own extinction, or becoming an active part of the solution.
It’s a choice, but it isn’t really a choice at all.
One of the lessons we need to pay attention to, is that our global climate has changed in deadly and unpredictable ways, from unprecedented flooding to unprecedented drought to unprecedented heat. Hurricanes are causing devastation and death as never before. There is no debate over the truth of this. None. We are fully into a crucial phase of human existence.
There is a wry often-quoted expression, most likely from around 1884, from editor Charles Dudley Warner: “Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
Well, it’s time to do something about it, by doing everything we can to slow down the rate at which the global climate is changing. It’s the choice that really isn’t a choice at all. This is the hard lesson to take from what we can’t ignore any longer, that there is no time to waste and that we can’t wait for someone else to act. It’s up to us.