I woke up this morning and looked through the window at the foot of my bed. The trees were swaying in the wind and the snow sugarspun along, left and right, down and around. It was beautiful and I was at home, that fact alone glamorous for a Tuesday morning. My first thought? This storm is boring. It was snowy, but not snowy enough. It was windy, but not windy enough. This was no snowmageddon, no “winter is coming.” This was just regular ole winter.
And I was not alone in my disappointment, Dave Hayes “the weather nut,” a local weather hobbyist from whom I, rightfully, get much of my weather news, seems to have spent much of this morning in immense regret for having predicted that snow storm “Juno” would be bigger than it became in our little neck of the woods. Last night, when it looked like the storm was not going to be a monster megastorm, Dave threw in the towel. “Folks,” he confessed, “I’m hitting a wall.”
Having been up for days tracking the snowpocalypse, and now with little to report to his legion of local fans, he went to bed. Across New England we all stared at our pallets of toilet paper, kale bursting forth from our fridges, casseroles stacked by the door, ready to be buried in the snow. Safekeeping. What do we say happened when nothing is happening? I wondered, as I munched my emergency buffalo wings, watching the tiny snowflakes swirl.
I should feel gratitude that the night had been far from epic, and I wish I could go back to this morning, so that when I opened my eyes and saw that the world was not ending, my first thought could be “Thank you.”
Because then I could have immediately thought back to October 2011, a real snowpocalypse when the power was out for days everywhere. Everything was ice, branches had fallen across our driveway, and we hadn’t yet repaired our woodstove. That week we oscillated between total genius coping — no stove, no running water — and complete panic that we were getting too cold, that our two month old baby would start to shiver, and that the sheer work of making it through every day and night would never end. I remember feeling powerful in our tenacity and weak in realizing what the experience taught me, for it taught me that I would do anything to never be like that again. It was a glimpse into something otherwise, the other story at the precipice.
I am sitting here writing this story of my morning and I hear a loud thud from the other room. A woodpecker has slammed into the window. There are spots of blood and feathers dangling, about to blow away. A crater has opened up in the smooth white snow, and all we see is a large wing. We stare. I take a picture while we try to figure what to do. The snow is not terribly deep, and the bird has slowly righted itself. We tell ourselves it is resting. We wonder if birds can get concussions. We are astonished at how stupid we are. We say that we’ll give the bird twenty minutes, and then we will go out to it. It’s back to the trees in ten. I imagine it knows that its headache can’t be worse than the drama an encounter with us would bring, our clumsy good intentions, our bold but frightened grabbing.
Now, looking at the window, we realize that there are many spots of dried blood. Other birds had crashed, but we had never noticed. We look through this window all the time, but had never looked at it. The blood of birds is on our hands, and this is not a metaphor.
The day everyone on the East Coast seemed to have been waiting for would have been a terrible and terror-filled day. With the last decade’s floods, the Katrinas, and Sandys, the tornadoes, one would think that all anyone wants is a reprieve. How can anyone be disappointed by missing disaster? What show are you watching? What memory do you think some shit like this would make? Why would we imagine that the live-through-this story we would tell after disaster would be anything but a story that sane people work to never have to tell, about a situation people should work, desperately, to avoid?
One could argue that only someone who has not actually experienced the terrible would desire the terrible. But that’s not what’s happening here: we want the terrible so that we can justify having worried about the terrible in the first place. We care, and then are ashamed to have cared. Today people got caught craving stories of exciting “real life” over the real facts of living, the work of survival. What are people looking for? What are we waiting for?
(And don’t even get me started on how plenty of people have gotten a ton of bad weather in the last 24, or how if this storm hadn’t been aimed at NYC, that it wouldn’t have been #Juno15. It would have just been weather!)
So let’s give Dave the Weather Nut a break, because he is just a guy trying to understand THE WEATHER and trying to help us not die. Unpredictability is the epitome of what weather does. We cannot comprehend the weather because it is so much bigger than us. We can only pray to our simulations, and at best measure events after they have already arrived, maybe after it is already too late. Today, I am just happy that the weatherman was wrong.