This isn’t about the weather in Poughkeepsie. I’m no weatherman, and, anyway, everyone knows what the weather is these days in places like Poughkeepsie. It’s the same weather that’s hit much of America. It’s Polar Vortex weather.
On the word whether, I wonder whether you’ve read any of Elwyn Brooks White’s essays? If you have not, I highly recommend his collection (originally published in 1977). His essays often wander and play with tangents more than a high school Geometry class. It’s a lovely and unassuming collection, but poignant, too. Timely work, if you ask me. Something not to be forgotten or overlooked. His voice is full of empathy and metaphor. To put it bluntly, he uses metaphor brilliantly. He wrote many of those essays on a farm somewhere near-ish to Poughkeepsie.
At the school where I work we’re in the fog of the second semester, and in my English classes I brainstorm with students about whether or not weather might be a metaphor. A math test can be a breeze (not for me). Someone can storm into the room. The morning can be a whirlwind. You can shower someone with gifts. Sure, weather can be a metaphor. It’s fodder for the critical reader. The weather can also build setting, context, a scene or mood. The weather might even be a character or a plot device.
I wonder though, is weather ever just weather?
When my cousin’s wife emailed me from Poughkeepsie that it was -1 degree C—her name by the way is Lovie—she also mentioned by name that devilish weather system: the Polar Vortex.
“Jesus”—I wrote in my reply—“Polar Vortex sounds like a really bad hip injury.”
Can you see it?
Doctor: What seems to be the problem today?
You: I don’t know, Doc. When I _______ I felt something ________.
(Doctor scribbles a tornado of notes on the notepad)
Doctor: You mean it went like ___________.
You: Yes! Just like that.
Doctor: Sounds like the classic case of a Polar—
You: No, not that!
Doctor: I’m afraid so.
All (in unison): A Polar Vortex!
Doctor: I’m afraid it’s going to be a long, long winter.
We drove south for the weekend—my wife, two-year-old son, and I. We started in Manila, where we’ve been living since August, and took the SLEX South road through Taguig and Paranaque and on through Calamba. Along the way, there are several road stops which offer Petrol and Starbucks and Jollibee and then the road narrows when you get to Batangas and onto Bauan and then it all goes topsy-turvy when you get to Mabini, a municipality of a mere 46,000 compared to Manila (population 22 million). We ended at our destination—and our storm-free three-day weekend—some three plus hours later at Lilom.
Over the long weekend, my wife and I small talked about parenthood. We have another on the way, so baby-talk takes over easily these days. We know what we’re in for: man-on-man defense for the next several years. We both agreed that as much as we love our son, there are moments, sometime hours (perhaps days) when parenting is more grueling than, sigh, sunshine. Every parent has been there in his or her own way.
I suggested to my wife that, sometimes, taking care of little man is sort of, like, I’m just trying to pass the time until he naps or sleeps and then you have a moment of peace and calm. It’s like you can, sort of, breathe again.
It’s kind of like waiting out the cold or recovering from a Polar Vortex or, even worse, surviving the long days and nights of an incompetent president.
Everyone knows what the weather is these days, remember?
No, by the way, I’m not comparing my son to the Polar Vortex. That’s a bit hyperbolic, don’t you think? We had a delightful weekend. It was one of those weekends when you think, yep, I can do this. I got this. Bring on another two babies. One morning, my son and I took a walk along the shores of the Philippine Sea where wooden boats with names like InfinityTwo and Crystal Blue and Adventurer stenciled on the side docked and waited for divers to embark. The waves teetered at a pace my son could conquer and smile at. We played and climbed and shoveled sand and threw seashells. The sun was warm, the morning glorious.
Neither is my son anything like our current president. I know I’m a bit biased, but my son is much more mature. He knows how to say thank you (and mean it) and say sorry before a storm’s a-brewing. If he built a wall it’d be made of something tasteful and useful, like cheddar cheese, marshmallows, or Legos. My son likes to share and give hugs. He has way more empathy than Trump and wouldn’t even know where or how to begin a late-night Twitter fight.
I guess, this too shall pass. The cold, I mean. We just have to remember to hug onto each other a little tighter and use our shovels with more grunt force especially when our president says things that makes our country feel even more frigid and torrential.
How do you read it all?
I tell my son it’s okay when we’re frustrated and angry, we just have to breathe and start anew. Find a better way. Yes, We Can.
Remember that rainbow of hope?
Even when we’re fighting something as brutal as a Polar Vortex.
Yes. We Can.