It was hot. Nearly 80 degrees, in fact. And sunny, dry. Not a cloud in the sky. The magnolia was beginning to bloom, buds were ripening, the daffodils were poking up, the wood frogs were croaking. I got out the wagon and wheeled my two children, dressed in short sleeved shirts, shorts, hats and sunscreen, to the library for Story Time. The librarian looked up when I arrived, sweaty, with a beautifully open smile. She was clearly reveling in the weather.
“Isn’t it gorgeous outside?” she said.
“It’s March,” I replied, which has been my retort ever since the unprecedented heat wave began, actually has been my reply for the entire winter, even when it wasn’t March but we were apparently perpetually in what used to be considered March weather. We were into our seventh day of ridiculously high summer temperatures with no end in sight. But this reply is lost on almost every one I talk to. Everyone revels in the warm temperatures and the dry winter, and they don’t understand why I get so grumpy about it. Paradoxically, the fact that nobody else gets it makes me even more angry.
Today, a friend complained to me that it was sleeting and cold outside. After ten days of intense summer heat, the temperatures cooled back down to the point where it got down to 16 degrees at our house, killing off the magnolia blooms, shocking the daffodils, silencing the wood frogs and very probably killing off the blueberry and apple flower buds in the orchard. It’s sugaring weather again—or it would be if the maples hadn’t budded out. That ship has sailed. Better luck next year.
“Well,” I said, “It is March.” Whatever that means, any more.
A few weeks ago we had finally gotten enough snow to cancel schools. Almost immediately the buzz of snowmobiles could be heard outside. A drive down the road revealed trucks and trailers, parked on the road, with an already muddied snowmobile track snaking off into the distance. Last week, in the midst of the heat wave, thousands of people converged on Hampton Beach. So it’s not as though people aren’t paying attention to the weather—clearly they have to prepare for their recreational activities in some thoughtful way—but they’re not thinking beyond the moment or beyond their own enjoyment. If you’re liking the weather because you don’t have to break out your snow shovel, you’re spending less money on fuel, or because you believe that lack of snow will mean a lighter mosquito season this year, you’re purposely not thinking about the long term possibility of drought, higher food prices, or the fact that no snow cover will kill off a lot more than just mosquitoes. I’d argue you’re not thinking at all.
And by you, gentle reader, I mean, actually, you.
If you’re reading this, then you likely have a longer attention span than the average American, plus you are able to comprehend fairly convoluted sentences that might contain words only a college graduate might know. That makes you reasonably intelligent. But really, you’re just an animal, living amongst your species, and basically your modus operandi is eat, live, reproduce, die. That’s it. So I’m not really blaming you, per se. And I’m not saying I’m above the above average of my readers, either. What I’m saying is that we’ve all been duped into giving up control of vital portions of what keeps us actually alive and functioning to entities that don’t actually care and don’t know what they’re doing, and the result is suspect food products, pollutants in the air and water, radiation particles, and extreme and unpredictable weather cycles due to climate change. Even those of us with above average intelligence apparently can’t handle more than one complex issue at a time, so we numb ourselves down with catchy platitudes and simple pleasures and we get all Zen with the moment. People like me, who apparently can’t turn it off, must annoy the hell out of people like you.
I care about the food stream and the increasingly unpredictable climate because I’ve actually gotten to the point where I’m trying to produce the food and the weather patterns are making it almost impossible. We’re not talking about a bad carrot year, now and then. We’re talking about constant, unpredictable, extreme uncertainties, every single year. If one year I live in a rainforest and the next year I live in a Siberian like desert, and there is no way to predict which one I’ll live in, I can’t really buy clothes to suit the environment, can I? Neither can I plan or adequately protect a garden or an orchard. And even if I could, it would mean pouring money into additional infrastructure and technology to mimic what used to be a fairly stable and predictable environment, which means that when I sell my food to you, it will cost more. It has to. That money has to come from somewhere. The fact that you are basking in the eery March sun and openly making light of the issue doesn’t change the fact that that same sun is actively upping your food bill. And when you are presented with the higher price you won’t blame the erratic weather you were enjoying before. You’ll blame me.
Now that I’m here, I’m even more aware of how fragile we’ve actually become. Not only have we created a society that is so overwhelmed with its day to day trivialities that it can’t manage more than simple thoughts such as “I’m cold” or “I’m hot” and a simple emotion “I’m sad because I’m cold” or “I’m happy because I’m warm” before shutting down, but that same society isn’t capable of stepping out of its box even when it is reminded of the base reality. Processing more complex information such as the time of year and the climate you’re supposed to live in should translate into more complex emotions such as “It’s okay to be cold because it’s winter—therefore I feel safe in my environment” or “It really shouldn’t be 80 degrees and sunny on March 15th –therefore I believe there is something wrong”, but it doesn’t. You’re too busy worrying about bills and prowlers and the news-of-the-day issue. The fact that you haven’t worn a coat all winter? Bonus! Hey, look Ma! I’m wearing a bikini in the ocean in New Hampshire in March! I’m skiing in shorts on artificial snow!
“It’s March,” is a reply that becomes a complete non-sequitur when you can’t connect the dots of what it means to be March in New Hampshire, and what it might mean to your future when March isn’t March and winter isn’t winter and it’s not your papa’s climate anymore. You’ll complain about the exorbitant price of maple syrup and the lack of peaches and cherries, how your well has run dry. You’ll freak out about the next “record” “freak” “extraordinary” “extreme weather event,” but you still won’t connect the dots. Maybe you don’t even see the dots. Maybe they’re obscured by sound bites and Limited Time Offers and the price of oil and your next hair appointment. Frankly, I don’t really get why you don’t get it. I’m pretty sure I’m not really smarter than you. Maybe I just have better eyesight. And a better memory. Or maybe you’ve all really discovered a Zen I can’t perceive. Hell, if I could achieve your Nirvana, I’d like nothing more than to hang out on my chaise lounge in a pretty matching bikini under a sizzling March sun watching the snow turn to mud. Maybe then I could enjoy the “once in a lifetime” “freak” phenomenon and accept the costs of it later. At least until it happened the next time, and by then I’d have forgotten all about it in favor of this year’s March Bikini Fashion Sale.
Nope. Sorry. Looks like reality is still there, dots and all.