I am sure I’ve been guilty of searching for metaphors where there were none. Whenever I’ve been around scientists for a prolonged period of time, I’ve been told as much. Sometimes the weather is just the weather. But I can’t help thinking that our obsession with storms speaks to some larger force—not climate change, though that’s conceivable—but an isolation from nature that can only be overcome by exaggerated contact. Even the peanut farmer who still goes outside to stare at the rain gauge every day is obsessing over the glowing amoeba of the radar and tracking the long-range models online to make decisions.
Most of us have no reason to look at the skies, or smell the wind, or watch the birds move down in the trees. The only time the weather can change our patterns of behavior is when it hits the off button. We had a big storm last week and it shut down everything in the nicest possible way, by which I mean the trees stayed upright and off the power lines, the water lines didn’t break, and the office was closed.
A winter wonderland lined up with the weekend and the world went quiet as a Robert Frost poem. Everyone who had ever lived in New England broke out their cross country skis, Virginia boys with trucks tested their invincibility, and Instagram got inundated by inch counts. By Monday evening the kids were stir crazy, their parents pawed at the liquor cabinets, and we were all tired of shoveling.
I enjoy the way the snow closes down my horizon. I don’t anticipate or yearn or forecast. It’s kind of like when you see yourself in the back of a photograph and you recognize a pure emotion—fatigue or sadness or joy—instead of the posed smile or cocky stare you normally adopt, and you realize you haven’t changed that much. Maybe not at all.