Curious indigestions of spring

Harry Drabik

I had business up the Trail last week. It was a beautiful day when I left home along the shore. The sun was bright on the big lake. An hour drive made a difference. The sky clouded over like a layer of greasy wax paper. In the space of a mile, the outside temp fell from 34 to 26 as I drove into a snow squall with all the entertainment of trying to navigate inside a feather-filled pillow. It wasn’t pleasant. Of course the snow didn’t stick, but as Mrs. Nature showed us again last Monday, an early or false spring can be tricky. Safely back to the shore hours later, I told of the “blizzard” with the comment, “And it’s not even July.” No one had any difficulty understanding the meaning of the July connection. I’m not alone thinking of that month as merely winter in heavy makeup.

If you think about it, we’re accustomed to oddity in weather. If you’ve lived here and aren’t a toddler, you’ve likely seen your share of January thunderstorms. We don’t count on them, but they happen. As I recall, a decade earlier there was another whopper of a false spring. The ice wasn’t off the lakes like this time, but it got darn warm before winter woke from its nap to give us another few months of ice-cuddle. I hear some talk of global warming or climate change, but whatever the view there I’d not make the mistake of confusing weather with climate. Those things are somewhat related, but they are not the same, not by a long shot. (I’m going to digress. I know you’re shocked, so I apologize.) Imagine our Earth frozen solid at -40º. There wouldn’t be much evaporation to form new snow to build glaciers. In comparison, a warm Earth could generate enough precipitation to build large masses of icy snow with an easier capacity to creep in the way of an advancing ice sheet of an ice age. The closer it is to thaw or melt, the easier and quicker the ice/snow will move. (This is a great oversimplification, so you meteorologists out there will have to bite your tongues and forgive me.)

Anyway, climate is not weather. Personal stories about weather are something we pass along for fun: a Northwoods version of Texan bragging. We’re proud of our fierce weather. A stiff wind with a minus twenty chill is a wonderful thing. You just can’t beat it for holding mosquitoes down. The little buggers don’t stand a chance. We appreciate good weather tales. When my family moved to the Range in the ’50s, our first Fourth of July was a memorable one on numerous counts. We had family from Illinois come to see where we’d marooned ourselves. One visitor, a year older female cousin, decided it was time for me to acquire some vices. She set about correcting my deficiencies with lessons in smoking and cursing, with an emphasis on smoking because I had sufficient savings to fund our descent into debauchery. Sneaking off to puff like little fools, we’d go through a pack a day, alternating between Kent (my choice) and Salem (hers). I thought Kent best suited my manly thirteen-year-old side. She was after the menthol thing. Back then it was easy for a kid to get away with smoking because near every adult had the habit, meaning they had utterly no sense of smell regarding awful tobacco odor. They couldn’t smell it on us.

Next to my fling with delinquency, that Fourth was memorable for the annual parade. It was cold. You could see your breath, and from time to time there appeared to be faint, almost invisible flurries sifting among the shivering spectators. Viewers were bundled in their ice fishing gear to watch the school band skate by playing a song that sounded like the Star Spangled Banner with icicles. The VFW and/or Legion shuffled by looking proud but none-too-happy to risk hypothermia to honor our veterans. Gosh knows how many Boy Scouts shambled past. The town was lousy with kids and had three troops. If there were 100 Scouts in the parade, you could be sure 99 of them wished they were somewhere else. The show stopper was the float with the beauty pageant runners-up and winner. It was not a day for bathing beauties. I imagine they were all attractive and shapely girls in their one– and two-piece swim attire, but you couldn’t tell from looking at them in parkas with hoods up and blankets wrapped around their feet to keep them from freezing in place. “That one’s got nice knees.” Following the parade my cousin and I snuck off to suck down cigarette smoke and talk dirty. As I saw things, life was good.

We learn (and it a good thing) to roll with the vagaries of weather. Weather isn’t personal. There’s no sense picking a fight with the elements. You get accustomed to odd indigestions occurring in meteorological weather. You roll with it. Why not do the same if political or social climate is the focus? With my career just begun in 1968, I’d never have suspected that Sirhan (a Jordanian) assassinating Bobby Kennedy was the first of a series of social tempests stemming from a similar climate source. In May of ’81, A ca (a Turk) nearly assassinated the pope in Rome. Looking back, there is a string of tempests that now includes 9/11 (mostly Saudis). Some say that global climate change is our fault. Some will tell you that acts like the ones above are our fault, too, brought on by our support of Israel or because we’re the world’s Great Satan.

Here’s the way I see it. Political climate isn’t stirred by natural elements; it’s man-made. Stirring and heating of political weather is the result of deliberate manipulation. I am proud of the U.S. for accepting responsibility, but shouldering our legitimate burden does not excuse others from their irresponsibility.