- In spite of a recent instant blizzard, quick shot of deep freeze, and lingering ice storm, it’s been very mild around here. There was practically no January thaw, because there was nothing to thaw from. Even the blizzard was polite, following predictions exactly, beginning at 4am and snowing furiously by 8, letting everyone relax about making decisions to close or take the day off. Finishing up by 3, so driveways and roads could be cleared. More of an impromptu holiday than a worrisome event. And, the day before, it was nearly 60.
- Some see in this signs of global warming. I tend to regard it as a typical example of average weather. But there is no doubt that it has been a good winter for those of us who remain. I’ve been able to get out to walk, wander parks, even sit outside with almost no particular preparation. The few episodes of real cold were more invigorating than annoying.
- Winter breaks begin, people fly off to warmer places. Tomorrow arrives the feast of Valentines Day, either in commiseration or celebration of love-life. Already we are halfway through the month, snowdrop flowers have been blooming at the end of the driveway, and birds seem to be mostly having a picnic.
- A very warm day last week was a chance to sit at Halesite for an hour or so and watch water waving and sparkling and generally calming. Geese strutted about behind me on their chattering gossip, gulls rode the dark surface serenely together, once in a while taking off for a circular flight just to prove they could still do it. It’s been a great winter for resting immobile and letting the mind gradually slow down to match the inertia of the body.
- As I grow older, I find it is sometimes profitable to rest like this. A few years ago, and for all of my life before, I could hardly sit still. If outdoors, I’d be moving somewhere, getting the blood moving, thinking grand or puny thoughts in rapid-fire. Now I am grateful to rest lumpen on a bench, and let the gulls and wind do the moving, let the rest of the folks in the world engage in the great thoughts.
- Carpe Diem.
- Letting the day come to you is sometimes the best way to seize it.
Today’s photograph a camillia in the wonderful Planting Fields arboretum in Oyster Bay, now in bloom.
- Seeking patterns in everything, we instantly wonder if anything means more than it appears. Does a comet blaze some prophecy? Does a mild winter portend a warming world? And once we have speculated that perhaps it does, we let imagination attach the most dire consequences to that meaning. The comet shows a war is about to be lost. A warm winter means the earth shall soon be rendered uninhabitable by rising heat.
- But leaving that chatter behind, most of us fail to realize how unusual our climate actually is. The ice ages, the entire history of our species, are incredibly out of line with a typically warmer Earth throughout its history. Icy episodes occurred in the planet’s past, to be sure, but none while life existed. None for the trilobites, none for the dinosaurs, none for most of the age of mammals. Only in the last few hundred thousand years _ which hardly counts on the march of hundreds of millions _ has there been anything as odd as glacial advance and retreat.
- We are still living in that weird ice age, when temperate-zones are far cooler than “normal” and when they can randomly swing many degrees into a new phase of glacial accumulation or melt. The supposedly eternal trees and animals around me have co-evolved with humans to meet these challenges. But what if those challenges go away?
- It’s a fun speculation that can continue quite a long ways. No doubt there is some warming going on. Certainly humans are contributing to it. But we should occasionally note that the warming predicted so far would merely return Earth to a climate approaching its average.
- Anyway, to paraphrase the old saying, one mild winter does not a climate make. I note that since the perversity of the universe tends to a maximum, the actual weather this week has been quite frigid.
- Among the pleasures of winter have always been lonely beaches. The few people who drive to the beach in cold and wind often just stay in their cars, experiencing nature in comfort. A short stroll away from the parking lot provides splendid isolation, only the wind, wave slap, and gull cries to hear, sharp air and salt tang and crunch of shells underfoot, wide expanses of water and shoreline without a boat in sight. An occasional dog walking its owner may break the solitude, but all go about enshrouded in heavy clothing and usually weightier thoughts.
- I tend to visit when the air is coldest and the north wind howls churning up whitecaps. Not only does it cut down on the “rabble” who try to share my space, but I find it a window into the primeval. I imagine, briefly, the life of Native Americans and early colonists along these shores at such times, suppress an involuntary shiver, and am thankful once again for modern comforts. Appreciation is one
thing. Endurance, at least in my soft old age, is something else entirely.
Roots communicate mysteriously using chemicals and electric signals. Barney the bulb comes half awake from some disturbance of his long winter rest. “Agnes?” he asks.
“Wha? Wha?” she mumbles. “Leave me alone, I’m tired.”
“Did you feel that?”
“Didn’t feel anything. Go back to sleep.”
Barney remains restless, and finally realizes it is Ruth, next door, who is sending out messages that the ground is clear and the sun is shining and the air is invigorating.
“But Agnes,” he says, “Ruth says it’s beautiful out and we should get going.”
“Ruth does this every year or so,” replies Agnes grumpily. “We listen, we shoot up over the ground cover, everything is hunky-dory, and then wham! We get blasted back to soil level and covered with dark snow for weeks. Go back to sleep.”
“Look, do what you want Barney. I’m not getting up for at least a month, and that’s final.”
Flash sparkles on dark sea
I lounge in happy trance
Hard bench full sun warmly
Enchanted by this dance
As gulls float calmly dry
Or wing into bright sky
Breezes cool by chance
Veer, blow, sing, puff gently
Blued shadows now advance
All this staged to free