Tonight, a nearly full moon has risen through a clear sky and these same now-silent trees. An owl of some kind is bleating with its mate in the dark, a sound new to us and strange.
There is always a day that proclaims winter to be over, when the universe nudges the earth irrevocably toward spring. In Chicago, today was that day. The trees are unmistakably budding, and the North Pond is suddenly crowded with birds.
The grass near the Nature Museum is turning an unfamiliar shade. Daffodils are suddenly blooming or budding.
Crowds flock to the zoo, unhunching their shoulders. Having shed a few layers, their steps are lighter. Chicago is suddenly eager to be outside. Winter’s senseless trials are forgotten, and enthusiasm flies high.
Three weeks ago, on the first day of spring, Celia took a picture of what she was wearing: a heavy suede coat, with a hood, heavy gloves, and everything. The weather was so bad, it was almost amusing. . . .
Three weeks on, little has changed. Still wearing a winter coat, with temperatures in the low 30s this morning.
On this, the first day of spring, bitter cold grips Chicago. The sun shines through a fierce wind, giving a false impression of a jaunty scene. In truth, we are barely holding together, much like the Hancock, which, to Celia’s wind-raked eyes, looks surprisingly flimsy, its sloping faces held together with a web, too carelessly strung.
The temperatures have dropped in Chicago, from 60 earlier in the week to nearly zero today. The river this morning was giving up its heat to the sky.
I love the closed-in, rectilinear look of this cityscape. So many surfaces, each with its own distinctive patterns and scale. Reflections inside the bus add to the vaporous dreamy feel.
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.”
Chicago is in the grip of a winter drought. The landscape looks barren and forlorn. The other day, snow fell for just a few minutes. Out in the country, too little snow is falling on the fields, and even the great Mississippi is drying up.