Saturday, 29 November 2008


I woke today to brilliant sunshine, pale blue sky, and a diamond hard frost. I cannot pretend it was very early, but all the more welcome given that I was emerging from a bad night. Doubly so as this year seems to have been an endless succession of grey skies.

Yet there is more to this than a ‘nice day’. Our moods and our spirit are indubitably linked with the weather, along with many other things. For those of us who live in urban, western society it is easy to pretend there is no link or to head straight to the doctor because we do not understand what is ‘wrong’ with us. We have cocooned ourselves, even those of us who live in villages and isolated spots. We still shop in supermarkets, use cars, travel from building to building, and treat the bit out of doors as an inconvenience.

In doing this, we are denying our own nature. As a species we have evolved over millions of years. If you condense the last five million years to one day, the first cities were built a minute and a half ago; they became a major feature of industrialized nations three and a half seconds ago. Not much time to have had an impact. Indeed, barely time to register on our consciousness.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that we are affected by the weather, by the landscape in which we live, by the things we do. It should be no surprise that we are confused. We deny the connection is more than superficial, and we try to do things for which, as a species, we are not really suited.

These are generalizations, of course. But there, nonetheless, important points to consider. We have not been urban dwellers for long enough to evolve out of the close connection we have with the natural world. We have been urban dwellers for long enough to develop a view of the world that leads many of us to believe we are somehow separate from the very simple and elemental forces about us – the natural cycles of earth, moon, and sun; the weather; landscape.

There are those who would say, “Well, yes, but it’s just a chemical reaction in the brain.” To which I would blow an impolite raspberry. That is, of course, an element, but it is there for a reason and there is so much more to it than that. Our bodies react to the weather to good purpose. On grey, wet days we lack the same sort of drive we experience on bright, warm days. Grey days are good for staying in shelter, resting, conserving energy, thinking rather than doing. Sunny days are great for getting out and doing. Of course, modern life doesn’t allow us these luxuries. We have to go to work (if we are lucky enough to have a job); we have to work to the clock.

And there are other elements at play. Our individual natures react to the weather in different ways. And we also have cultural, emotional, spiritual, material, and geographical. I react to this sunny late November day differently to how I would react to a sunny day in early March. I have a different set of expectations and associations.

But whether the sky be sunny or grey, whether the wind blows, the waves crash, the rain falls (and perhaps, if we are lucky, the snow tumbles), I know that my reaction to the weather embeds me within the world. It doesn’t have to be a joyous, happy-bunny reaction. The grey makes me as dull as anyone else. I have no desire to isolate myself from this process. Indeed, I celebrate it; celebrate simply by watching the birds feed, the cats play, the frost fade slowly, by enjoying the very fact of my existence.

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