Escaping the Grip

Winter has seemed more cruel this year. We’ve had a record snowfall for February and the temperatures have usually been running 15-20 degrees colder than normal. Icy surfaces just won’t melt, even though the sun is getting stronger and our days are getting longer. It’s March now and we usually are in the height of maple syrup season with the thawing and freezing awakening the sap in the trees as well as the critters that inhabit our landscapes. But this year, it seems that winter’s grip just won’t let go. 

I know that will change. Spring will spring at some point. We can soon start to enjoy the warmth of 40 degrees that feels so wonderful in March when those same 40 degree temperatures felt so ominous in early November. We will ditch the stocking caps and gloves and leave the parkas behind any day now. But not just yet. Winter’s grip still has us at its mercy. Right now, we stoically remind ourselves that at least we are usually above zero and the every other day snow accumulation can’t go on forever. Then we laugh nervously, knowing that we are just telling ourselves something to make us feel better. 

For the time being, we can barely remember what green grass looks like or what it’s like to walk outside on surfaces that aren’t icy. It’s funny how that works. But our human memories tend to work that way. Humans’ attention spans tend to go dormant after a few months. 

We see that in other ways, aside from the weather. Republicans can’t seem to remember how much they objected to executive action just over two years ago as they nervously support a wall that was not approved by Congress. Democrats can’t seem to remember how important they said accepting election results was when they thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. The media can’t seem to remember how foolish they’ve made themselves look when they rush to judgement even when they stumbled badly doing so just weeks earlier. The religious right can’t seem to remember how much character was supposed to matter until that became an inconvenient concept.

We humans are not at our best when we act from the angst of the moment and fail to slow down, pause and look for a more sturdy perspective. We seem to quickly take to Twitter over everything, often regretting our posts or breezing past the foolish things we sometimes say because everyone in our respective echo chambers is assumed to think the same way. And maybe they do. Hubris is something we humans do well. 

Perhaps our short human attention spans are simply hard wired in us. After all, don’t we complain too at extended heat waves and mosquito hatches, longing for the cool days of autumn to end them?  But maybe our short weather memories don’t need to carry over into other aspects of our lives. Maybe we can remember what it was like to be young, before dismissing youthful exuberance in others. Maybe we can see ourselves in an aging person who gets around in a walker or in a wheelchair and needs the assistance and kindness of others. Maybe we can stop and listen to those who don’t look like us rather than disregarding what they have to say out of hand. Maybe we can take a moment to reflect on our blessings and consider that there are those who’ve not been dealt the same hand in life. 

In our humanness, we certainly have it in us to be trivial and short-sighted. But I also don’t think we would be placed on this globe and given a responsibility for one another if we didn’t have the capacity to show things like mercy, forbearance, patience and love. 

Spring will get here eventually. So if we can close out of Twitter, put on the parkas one more time and shovel the sidewalk of a neighbor who is unable to do so, we might find that the weather doesn’t really seem to have us in its grip after all. 

Copyright March 2019 by Daniel Blake

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