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Nature: Useful vs. Beautiful, or, Sunlight and Infinite Modulation

I’ve always loved weathers that others despise.  Cold, snow, ice, mist and fog thrill me deeply.  I don’t mind a bright, sunny day, but my heart lifts at the promise of a long stretch of a  luminous sky modulated by silvery shifting light,  sharp shadows that darken one narrow mountain ridge in a sea of lighter shades, or pelting rain and snow through which to slog.

This is nothing new, for me.  From time to time I try to understand its roots.  There are few people with whom I can share this enthusiasm–in fact, just mentioning how beautiful a rainy day is can bring on eye-rolling spasms that I can even hear over the phone, during those special pauses.  I know what you’re doing. 

I’ve decided that perhaps most people use the days, usethe weather recreationally.  They go out on boats, play sports, and at the very least get their kids out of the house without having to make sure they are dressed for the weather.   People are at a loss as to how to use a rainy day–especially one that is cold.  “Bad weather.”  “Miserable.”  “Dreary.”  These are some of the wrongheaded adjectives those insensitive to the fine nuances that emerge on gray days bandy about.  And then instead of reading, making big pots of soup, playing Scrabble, or going for a good old walk in the rain, they mope and whine.  A useless day. 

Pah, I say.  Some days start out beautifully overcast.  My heart lifts:  see above.  Wet leaves shine; if there are no leaves, then grey, brown, and black branches etch the sky.  If it is spring, and trees are blossoming, the pink and white blossom clouds are  intense, in rain, as a living, ancient Chinese painting through which I can walk.   Sometimes, if the weather seems to be clearing, if fitful sunlight breaks through, I am as disappointed, as perversely depressed, as I imagine those with SAD might be.  Perhaps I have reverse SAD. 

I was sent out to play in all kinds of weather.  My mother was from Michigan, and armed with total-zip snowsuits, rubber boots, layers of hats, earmuffs, gloves, and mittens.  We played outside no matter what the weather, and drove through it too, for that matter.  She said that she and her car pool often drove between Saginaw and Midland, to Dow headquarters, through weather so blinding that the passenger kept the door open and watched whatever was to be seen of the edge of the road in order to advise the driver. 

Perhaps I enjoyed gloomy weather for other reasons.  I was myopic from an early age; bright sunlight washes out details and makes everything dull and featureless.  For me, anyway.  If everything is a blur already, you are left with only slight definitional edges–for that reason, and for intense color, I love polarized lenses.  I definitely enjoyed staying inside to read from the age of five or so (harder to justify shooing me outside in gray weather, and I was quiet), but found I could enjoy reading outside in trees during “nice” days.  I was a normally active girl, with my six-shooter cap guns,  my rubber bowie knife, my two-wheeled Huffy that I could ride all over the neighborhood and to the drug store for comic books, my forts and treehouses, but I did love playing outside in the rain, hail, sleet and snow.  One day in Lockland when I was, probably, five or six, I walked home from school through new-falling unexpected snow.  In a spasm of ecstasy, I leapt and whirled in the back yard as soon as I got home.  My grandmother (from whom I inherited the deteriorating hip I’ve had replaced) emerged on the back porch and urged me to come inside and put on boots and a coat.  I was surprised to see her–she hadn’t been there in the morning, but she and my grandfather often came by train from Saginaw.  I laughed and played.  She could not chase me.  She implored “Please come in.  Your mother will be upset with me if I let you play outside without putting on your boots.”  I was hardhearted and ignored her and had a lovely time before my mother came home.   

Right now, we are enveloped in a heat wave.  It is somewhat humid, though it does not rain, so it is not a dry heat.  It is a wet, bright, sunny heat.  I like this weather too–perhaps because I am not expecting gloom.  I despise air conditioning (though I succumb to it when in Florida) because I am then cut off from the outdoors, and so I sweat, move slowly, and drink iced tea.   Many people find this weather useful, if they are not too oppressed by it.  These kinds of days cry out for a beach, a lake, a pool, laughing children, a dog swimming hard to fetch sticks, cutting a green furrow through a forest pool with her neck.  Leaves modulate shade; roses droop; but my hydrangeas glow, all shades of white, lilac, pink, in deep shade out back.

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