We are enjoying very fine weather

We humans have a bad habit of judging the weather by the degree to which it influences our level of personal comfort. And so it goes that good days are dry, warm, and sunny while bad days are wet, cold, and cloudy. I have written before about the Anthropic Principle which argues that, given its capacity to support us, the Earth must exist for us. Or, to put it another way, the properties of the Earth are just so because we are here to pronounce it and, if it were any other way, we wouldn’t be. To add some perspective, consider that there are approximately 1.2 million described animal species (this number ranges from 3 – 30 million when estimates of numbers of animals yet-to-be described are included) and Homo sapiens therefore makes up less than 0.0001% of this population. Although I cannot find the data with which to carry out the calculation, I like to think about its result … I wonder, of the total number of living animal bodies, what fraction is 7.1 billion, the current human population? As you ponder this, consider that my hypothetical doesn’t include estimates of populations of plant, fungal, protistan, or bacterial bodies. If we could carry out such calculations, and especially when rounding down, one could reasonably conclude that humans don’t exist. But, given the assured knowledge that we do, let’s simply say that as a fraction of all living bodies, humans are insignificant indeed. Having drawn that conclusion let me observe the obvious, that the impact of this vanishingly small fraction has a significance far beyond its metric. Some would go so far as to call that significance, catastrophic. Forgive me though, for I digress.

Isn’t it curious then that we judge weather in the light of our own comfort? Have you ever stopped to think that other organisms, whether they be animals, plants, fungi, protists, or bacteria, might proffer an alternate view, if only they could be asked? I took this photo yesterday along the Susquehanna flood plain just south of town. A front had passed and the low which followed brought mild temperatures to the valley. Just four days ago we were experiencing negative single digits, and now the thermometer to my left reads 40ºF. The dramatic change has generated veils of mist which fill and then rise from the river course to wash into the surrounding flood plain and beyond. The farm is two miles from the river and it too is surrounded. Joanna observed that the ice, sleet, and rain, together with the sunless gray sky, combined to produce grismal conditions. I wonder what the trees would say about all of this if they could but speak? They are resting though. They are dormant. Other organisms too lay quiet. There is a beautiful lexicon which describes this period of metabolic pause, this genetically programmed state of rest; dormancy, diapause, aestivation, hibernation, and brumation all describe a time in the cycle of life when organisms enter a period of metabolic quiescence. A necessary time, not one which is chosen consciously but one which manifests via genetic expression. The recipe we call selection dictates that any organism which requires dormancy and whose genes do not contain messages of rest, will not survive. Although dormancy is a rest timed (in higher latitudes) to coincide with physiologically challenging periods characterized by a scarcity of water, warmth, and sunlight, it is also an obligate period in often complex life cycles. It is necessary and it rejuvenates … in the most literal of senses. Rejuvenate … consider the word. To make young again, if only it were so. What a wonderful way to view our current (poor) weather. It should be welcomed for it is necessary in the cycle of events which leads to seasonal and predictable rejuvenation. Now, doesn’t that put a different sort of spin on the weather? It does for me. There are good things happening, right now,  and there are more to come. Soon. Just wait. Not too much longer.


30 thoughts on “We are enjoying very fine weather

  1. So true! I also cringe when weather is reported on the radio … if it is warm in December we “unfortunately don’t have a white Christmas”. If it snows “suddenly” in January the reports read like the movie script of The Day after Tomorrow. In summer this is reversed. So not even the human judgment is internally consistent. Personally I would vote for an eternal spring as on the Canary Islands.

  2. That’s a beautiful wintery photo David, and I do love shots of mist … something so eerie and atmospheric about it … all suspended. I love what you’ve written about the balance between rest and activity … we need it too. Modern life seems to demand that people forget their bodies are living complex things, and that they need periods of rest in order to stay in good health. The same is also true of our minds, which need quite empty space at times. I for one thoroughly enjoy the rest and hibernation of winter’s short days! Grismal by the way is a brilliant word … I’m beginning to suspect that Joanna must have some good Scottish blood in her veins with poetic word renderings like that 🙂

    • Thanks for the thoughtful response Seonaid. Joanna’s long-ago ancestors were English farmers … although that being said, she has always had a special place for Scotland in her heart (as do I). I’ll tell her you liked ‘grismal,’ we’ve got MORE of it today. D

    • Thanks L. If you haven’t taken a look at your own comments today … let me say here that I liked your image of the Peacock feather on several levels. It was a real beauty. D

  3. What an interesting picture! One that should remind you it’s time for some new boots 🙂 Not a good one from which to make a jigsaw puzzle, though. Now, back to your original point. And thank you for not mentioning “it’s great weather for ducks.” Each year, around June two beautiful phenomena coincide: (1) Icebergs making their way south and (2) whales (Minkes, Humpbacks and the occasional Orca) making their way North. Quite something to watch! The warm summer weather is not really to their liking. I guess that huge bodies generate a lot of thermal energy that cannot be dissipated in warmer water … well, that, and the simple fact that they’re chasing their food as it, too, moves North.

    • OK … here goes … you luck DUCK! You see icebergs! Wow. Cool (ugh). I’ve seen whales (from quite a distance) but never really-big-ice-cubes. You do live in a very special part of the world (cold, wind, rain, ice, cold, cold, and cold, notwithstanding). D

      • I’ve never gone too close to bergs. They are very dangerous not only are they deceptive in that 9/10 of them is out of sight (and might be below our boat, just out of sight) but they are unstable. Huge bits fall off and, worse again, they can roll over as melting affects the centre of mass. From time to time, though, they get grounded near shore and then are good to watch.
        Now, as for the cold. Yes, it is bloody cold here but this is a somewhat-worse-than usual winter. Our winters here are somewhat moderate with temps generally hovering close to freezing. Now the wind – oh, did I mention bloody cold? 🙂 We don’t have a lot of violent crime here though – trigger fingers freeze and much too cold for fighting outdoors. As for the whales, there’s a pretty good tourist industry here around whale watching and it’s done pretty well too. Instead of chasing the whales the boat goes out to with a few hundred metres of where they are jumping and such and just heaves too. The curious animals then generally swim over to the boat to check it out.

    • Also, relating to your comment about boots … you may be interested to know (and if you’re not just ignore this response) that I was recently diagnosed with Pitted Keratolysis which, I was to discover, is caused by hyperhidrosis of the foot … AKA habitually sweaty feet! Joanna says that my habitually leaky boots probably don’t help! As if I didn’t have enough to preoccupy my mind. D

  4. I like to think that each of our lives has meaning and influence. We create the future. Our past and present are all part of who we are. Each of us matters. If we thought we were of so little significance, why bother?

    • What you say is surely true but in all of these posts I have not been talking about significance on the time scale of individual lives but rather an evolutionary time scale measured in millions, tens of millions, and hundreds of millions of years. D

  5. Very nice vista, I really like the moody feel of the fog with the trees. I’m new in WordPress with a blog about flowers. I saw you have “Revolver Maps.” How did you install it? I’ve read that any widgets that used Java scripts couldn’t be used with WordPress?

    • I think I got it. It’s the HTML static map code used with the text widget. I had always liked that widget. It just doesn’t have the Flash animation but it doesn’t matter because it still works acquiring the data which is what it is supposed to do. Your blog is fascinating. I had no idea there was a Shetland sheep wool industry in PA!

      • Hey there TropicalFlowering … glad you figured out that Revolver Maps was simply cut-n-paste HTML provided by the RM site itself. I’ve had it on my site for more than a year and have really enjoyed it. Regarding your last line … although there are folks in PA that market their wool, Shetlands don’t make up much of that market. Wool buyers want white wool that may be dyed … the natural color fleeces that we produce fill a niche in the spinners and weavers markets which are small to nonexistent here in PA. Are you here in the Keystone State yourself? D PS: Thanks for stopping in today and for your observations and comments.

        • I am quite far from you, in the tropics, in San Juan, P.R.. I’m into flowers and I also follow Steve’s ‘Portrait of Wildflowers’ blog. I was blogging with Blogger, then switched to WordPress, but the ORG not the COM. I realised I couldn’t keep up with the plugins involved with self-hosting; so I decided to stay with WP COM which is more simple and reliable. I also follow another ‘sustainable living’ blog. I always loved ‘domesticated’ animals and the idea of sustainable living; yet I cannot bring myself to the idea of raising animals for slaughter nor living with the normal antagonism between humans and wildlife that may indeed arise from owning and keeping farm and/or domestic animals. The “who has the right for this meal” is a dilemma which only makes me more human, but I’m just wondering how you’re treating this aspect from a philosophical point of view, if you don’t mind.

          • Is it Maria (?). We, here at the Farm, have thought very hard about the issues you bring up … they are as difficult as they are important. I have included a few links for you to look at and read over when you have time.

            Here’s a page describing our philosophy concerning the ethical treatment of livestock … http://wp.me/P1yRFa-vn
            Here one post concerning such matters in general terms … http://wp.me/p1yRFa-Pq
            Here’s another post concerning the matter with specific regard to poultry … http://wp.me/p1yRFa-1z0

            I hope you can take some time to look over these philosophical statements and can, at the very least, understand the thinking and rationale behind the decisions we have made here on the farm. You do not have to agree with the way in which we live … but I do hope you can understand the thinking behind it. D

          • Thanks so much for sharing these posts. I’m a Vegan. But I think we can all live together in harmony, and continue to share and respect each other’s ideas even though we have taken different roads in life. The other blog I follow is from an “ovo-lacto vegetarian” couple who have a homestead in another state. I want to thank you so much for linking me to the posts you wrote for sharing purposes. Be well, Maria

            • Hey Maria … I’m glad we’re still friends! If Joanna and I did not live on a farm and were not able to raise our animals with respect and in comfort … if we were put into the position of having to purchase commercially raised meats … then I think we would have gone the way you, and your friends, have. But, because we do live on a farm and can be sure that our animals live a very good life and are treated well … we feel, as the links I’ve included outline, comfortable with our decisions. Thanks for being open minded about this … and thanks for taking the time to talk it out. D

  6. “Grismal’ is a great word! In another week or so, we’ll be entering my favorite time of year, just after the winter solstice but before any of the clear signs of spring have yet to erupt. It is that time to look for tiny, secret hints of spring … the very first pushing up of snowdrops, the tiniest swelling of a bud, the beginning of the maple sap run. I do love it, in all its secretive life. I also love these images with the strong horizon line (I’m realizing this is a recurring pattern of mine). The trees act as a line stitching between the land and the sky, like a child’s first sewing project 🙂

    • YOUR words of aprobation are always very special … thank you. I also liked your analogy. I consider you my most critical follower and when I hear from you I know I’ve done something right! D

  7. Thanks for putting a positive spin on this cold, dreary time of year, but, really, are we that insignificant? I don’t like to think so.

    • Two things … first, did you choose to LIKE this post as well as comment on it? If you did push the LIKE button … it did not register. If you chose not to like … so be it. And second, yes we are that insignificant. Take another look at these lines, written by Twain, which appeared in one of my earlier posts …

      “Such is the history of it. Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.”

      Such is the truth of the matter. D

  8. I will try to remember this when I wake up tomorrow morning to a cold, WET, sunless day. Perceiving that the world around me is resting and rejuvenating would be much more positive than my current perspective. Nice! Lovely photo.

  9. This says dormancy alright. But as you say, these plants need the time to rest so they can grow again come spring. You tend to forget that everything’s not dead at this time of year! Thanks for reminding us!

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