Saturday, September 22, 2012
Let’s talk about the weather.
The summer in New York seemed different this year, powerful in an old way. Most days the air sat thick and hot on us, the sky a lens held above us by a boy who hasn’t yet begun worrying about himself as cause. And the storms. We look out from pretty high windows now, and we have a clean view north and west over and up the Hudson, which is where our weather comes from. Over and over we watched the ecstasy of meteorologists on the Weather Channel appreciating red running across the radar, the lines thick like wire once twisted up that someone gave up on trying to pull straight again. We watched the radar-red fronts menace in, watched the sky turn the color of a bruise. The heat made for huge thunderheads, easily ten times taller than anything in this city of tall buildings, including those two we remember being taller than they were. Many times we saw the clouds come down below the building tops and pretend to be ghosts chasing each other out to the ocean. It was all enough to make a person think up gods just to give them what they want.
I like watching weather from closer up, sure, but I still find myself missing the Western Kansas sky, the one that comes all the way down to you. I miss the weather talk, too. Most conversations in the Midwest still begin and end with the forecast, even though few conversationalists these days are farmers whose livelihoods hinge on the character of the climate. To someone passing through, such talk probably comes across as casual and irrelevant, an avoidance of communication instead of a species of it. But it’s not hard to account for its persistence and prevalence: All that sky makes for storms that seem bigger than the planet. Fronts can be spotted easily 50 miles off, and though they always move faster than they look (as giant things do), they leave a fair amount of time for theory and speculation. And it’s more than theory. Kansans have learned to know the quickest ways to their basements. When they mention rain at the post office and the restaurant, it’s a form of the oldest and most basic social cement, like prairie dogs passing around a warning about a hawk.
But now fall. In New York the summer storms have gone in favor of darkening mornings that spin to clear sky blue. The poets got it wrong: Fall makes a poor stand-in for the onset of the end of something. To my mind, it’s hard to think clearly in the summer — to think at all really — but when the air cools, thoughts and what they’re about can become further apart. We locate our sleeves and begin wondering about our jackets; doubts about gods reroot. September brings back an interest in the inside of things.
What’s your weather like?