Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Clouds, Common Sense & the Old Girls of Winter

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 by Sara Jewell Mattinson.

The Cloud Appreciation Society, based in the UK, opens its manifesto with the following sentence: “We believe that clouds are unjustly maligned and that life would be immeasurably poorer without them.”
Someone felt it was necessary to create a society for the appreciation of clouds? When did clouds become the enemy?
“People think of clouds as things that get in the way,” says society founder Gavin Pretor-Pinney in a recent  TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Talk called Cloudy with the Chance of Joy. “They think of clouds as annoying, frustrating obstructions.”
Which is incredibly odd because clouds are way up in the sky. How can clouds be in our way?
Because they are responsible for snow.
And, if you watch TV and follow social media, THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT.
It used to be that weather was whatever you saw out the window or windshield -- and you dealt with it as you went along. It was no big deal.
Now, 24-hour weather networks and round-the-clock newscasts mean that weather is over-hyped and over-exposed so that we can all over-react.
When we start going on about a normal, run-of-the-mill 15 centimetre snowstorm for Nova Scotia a week before it’s due to arrive, we lose perspective. We forget that in Canada, snow is to be expected during winter months.
When a sign on the TransCanada highway in northern Nova Scotia tells drivers in February to “Expect Winter Conditions”, we’ve already lost perspective. And common sense. If you have to be told how to drive in Canada in winter, you need to consider moving to Arizona.
Last Saturday morning, I watched a woman with a rollator (the proper name for a four-wheeled walker) manoeuvre herself along a snow-covered sidewalk in downtown Oxford. We’d had two centimetres of snow the night before, not much, but she was pushing hard to keep her wheels moving forward. My first thought wasn’t outrage that the sidewalks weren’t perfectly cleared like a June afternoon; rather, I thought,  “Rollators should come with snow tires.”
Uptown, another woman with a rollator was tromping her way to Tim Horton’s. I admired both of those older women for their old-school determination to not let a little bit of snow get in the way of their errands. They were too busy power-rolling to shake their fist at the clouds and shout, “Curse you, annoying obstructions!” 
As the saying goes, weather happens. 
Every day. Every minute of every day. And despite the fact that the weather is always changing, it doesn’t really change. 
In Canada, we are blessed with four seasons. It’s cold in January, it’s wet in May, it’s hot in August and it’s cold AND wet in November. Snow falls anytime between December and April. If you don’t like it, you can move to Arizona where it’s hot and sunny all the time. 
Which venomous snakes really appreciate. 
Clouds have become the snakes of the sky: We love to hate them yet we fear them at the same time. 
Most of all, we just take the weather too personally. As if all this snow falls JUST TO MAKE YOUR LIFE MORE DIFFICULT.  Those darn obstructionist clouds.
The weather is the one thing humans can’t control. Look up at those clouds and appreciate their power. The way your day goes depends entirely on them. 
Let’s be more like those two women last Saturday morning, full of determination and spirit and muscle power -- as if they were in training for a new Olympic snow sport: Freestyle Rollator Cross. 

Found these -- the Trionic Walker from the UK -- online. Now THOSE are tires for Canadian winters!

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