Weather Obsessed

December 1, 2008

Move to Portland and you’ll immediately encounter people’s obsession with weather. I’ve lived here nine years and joke about the obsession while enthusiastically contributing to it.

The climate isn’t extreme, though the contrast between summer and winter is. But the weather obsession is less about reviling cold and rain and more about seeking connection to the natural world. That’s not easy, especially for urban dwellers. Monitoring the outdoors reassures us that we’re part of it. And with the weather beyond our control, constantly bemoaning or praising or simply commenting about it is also our way of creating meaning for our lives.

Part of my unconscious routine is checking the thermometer on the porch, the clock when morning fog begins to burns off, and watching for clouds blowing in from the west. I didn’t plan this routine but I like the rhythm of it. Weather happens with me and not to me.

I also sense when something is amiss. Sunday I worked in the yard and sweated. It was abnormally warm, and I mentioned this to my wife enough times that she began to roll her eyes. But it’s not just me thrown off by the temperature. Some trees still haven’t dropped all their leaves. A few confused perennials have sprouted some out-of-cycle flowers. The tomato plants we pulled up yesterday still had blooms.

The temperature didn’t reach the record high of 58 degrees set in 1941. Rainfall for the month was an inch below normal. I should be happy — a warm and dry fall. But I wonder if the conditions portend something ominous. Or am I simply imposing drama on an otherwise tranquil day, the kind I’ll long for when winter inevitably arrives?