As if nature knew our woes, violent weather gripped our shores this week. An ordinary bus-ride home became an unfamiliar odyssey, with a menacing lake, and a strange, unaccountable light coming from the east.
The normally calm lake was frightfully stirred. Violent waves pounded against our shores. Thunder and lightning broke up our memories of sunning on these beaches in happier days.
Suddenly vulnerable, we saw that the line between safety and danger is perilously thin.
All humans need an anchor. Even the most footloose world travelers have some invisible ties that enable them to be free. In the face of tumult and change, each of us learns to find reassurance and create order, whether by praying, playing the piano, or rearranging a room. My manicurist tells me that she gets rid of stress by going shopping.
One of my anchors lies in my husband, who (unlike myself) is very habitual and has a keen sense of time. The latter is a trait common to people who trade commodities as he does.
Perhaps his occupation also explains his keen interest in the weather, which for many of us supplies the day’s best occasion for contemplating the metaphysics of the universe in which we live. Will it snow tomorrow? Will the cold snap hold? Will there be enough water to keep the Mississippi navigable next spring? And if not, why? The connections we make between weather and the human and cosmic order are almost as myriad as the times humans have used talking about the weather as a means of connecting with one another.
Nonetheless, I find it a little funny that we monitor the weather and find it reassuring. We have thermometers in many of the rooms of our house, as well as a barometer (for measuring changes in atmospheric pressure) and a hygrometer (for measuring humidity) outside. These instruments put numbers on what we are feeling, and somehow that is comforting because it suggests mastery and understanding of something that is actually uncontrollable, chaotic, and unknown. If we feel low on a particular day, we can blame the barometer, and gird ourselves for the unexpected when it registers “Change.”
I wait for the bus at the bottom of LaSalle Street, which is kind of a taken-for-granted scene. In fact, you’re surrounded by notable and historical buildings, so many of them that the specialness of it all doesn’t even register. Because, of course, we’re there everyday, waiting for the bus, still thinking about work, our feet tired. Plus, that “commuter pride” thing kicks in—that wanting to appear blasé that proves you’re an insider, a work warrior, a city sophisticate—not a tourist or a rube. More