Thursday, December 24, 2020

Quiddity

CS Lewis reveled in what he called the quiddity of weather, the essence of what was happening on a particular day. I have thought of this often, and mentioned it in conversation many times.  You wouldn't know that, because I haven't said that here. I love wind, and thunderstorms, and early on caught the spirit of what he was saying and have tried to emulate it.  When there is blizzard, I have made an effort to appreciate the blizzardness of it.  When there has been downpour enough to pull off the road because one cannot see, even with the wipers on double, I have striven to simply enjoy it.

I have seldom managed this for biting cold, though when my blood is thickened and zero degrees in January is not a barrier to a five-mile walk, I have been able to appreciate that temperature if it is still.  Nor have I done well with humid temps above 90.  I try, because I think Lewis is essentially right in this. Though, over the last forty years I have borne in mind that Lewis's England and Northern Ireland did not have much of those extremes. I did wonder cynically whether he would be quite so thrilled with 20 below.  But still, we should appreciate things for what they are as much as we can, and seek their essence.

It was only about a month ago that I pursued that thought of Lewis's somewhat narrow range of weather that he was so excited about.  They do have wind, yes, and sometimes those are stiffish, as Bertie Wooster might say*.  But no hurricanes or tornadoes.  And when I looked it up, I found that it was not somewhat limited, but very limited. The temperature range every year (in Fahrenheit, the only sensible measure for describing human experience) is 25-80 degrees in Oxford. That means only a few days each year hit those extremes.  In Belfast, where he grew up, it is even less, 30-75 degrees. Coming from New Hampshire, where we get a few days at 100 and a few days at 20 below every year (and at 67 years old I have seen worse than that), we have twice the range.  That is, at the cold he considers bracing and fascinating we've got another 45 degrees worse, and the oppressive heat that complained about in the 1930s as drying up his pond at the Kilns in August is still 20 degrees short of New Hampshire average high temp.

So I am no longer impressed by his quiddity.  I still think it is the right idea and we should all try to revel in the weather God sends us. But he has no authority to speak on this matter.

7 comments:

PenGun said...

LOL. Yesterday, I appear to be the first up the hill since it snowed. No footprints but mine. ;)

Sam L. said...

Weather is weather. We endure it, appreciate it, suffer it, make the best of it, or stay inside! Floods, however...

james said...

"Many human beings say that they enjoy the winter, but what they really enjoy is feeling proof against it. For them there is no winter food problem. They have fires and warm clothes. The winter cannot hurt them and therefore increases their sense of cleverness and security. For birds and animals, as for poor men, winter is another matter." Douglas Adams

Snowmen and snowball fights are fun, but at some point you want the warm room and hot cocoa.

Texan99 said...

The cold has nothing much to challenge us with here, but the extreme heat and humidity last for such a long, long time in the summer that they can get me down. I try to remember to response of an ex-colleague of mine who grew up in Minnesota: he reveled in the extreme heat no matter how long it lasted. What little cold we have also is an occasion for celebration, especially because I know it will be over far too soon. By March we can nearly feel the looming threat of the very hot weather fast approaching. But this year we've added a pool, so for the first time I can remember, we'll really be eager for baking heat.

I confess I breathe a sigh of relief at the end of every hurricane season. Most years we don't even have to put up storm shutters, always a good thing, but we do keep an eagle eye on the long-range forecast from at least June through August. By September, most hurricanes are headed for someone else.

Flooding rain is not that big a problem in such a flat area. Drought is a greater threat.

stevo said...

Mr Farenheit's scale was based on the idea that 100 was human body temp.(off by a bit) and Zero was as cold as it ever got.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

It does work, however, in a practical sense. Anything over `100 is too damn hot, while anything less than zero is too damn cold. In between is the human life.

random observer said...

I grew up in Toronto and then lived in Ottawa. Southern Ontario is no tropics nor desert, but it's a historically wet place with many valley microclimates.

The temperature range I have come to consider normal over any given year is about -30 C to +35 C, or -22 to 95 F.

It doesn't quite hit those extremes much, but 40-50 degree annual range is not too hard to get.

Winter ranges from soul-leaching damp cold to lung-burning dry cold.

We haven't had too punishing a summer in recent years, except for 2018. Hovering just under or just above 30 C for over two months with high humidity. My apartment was like a VC prison in the swamp. I clearly could not handle the American South.