The weather and the world and other random thoughts.

So, in Arctic Dreams last night (well it was only last night for me since that’s when I was reading it) Barry Lopez touched on the subject of migration to the arctic. Apparently there are all these species of animals that are just waiting for the ice to crack and melt every year so that they can get up to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle. He said he thinks of migration like breathing, like Spring and Summer in the Arctic are a great drawing in of breath, and then all the migration south beginning in the Fall is an exhalation of animals. I love that! Thinking of earth like a body. Or projecting our bodies on the earth. I’ve often thought about the seasons here in the Pacific Northwest as an eye opening and closing…In the summer the crystal clarity of everything is the eye all the way open, and the dark sameness of the winter is an eye with its lid half-shut.
This is the farthest North I’ve ever lived, and I could see how some of his discussion of life in the Arctic resonated here more than other places. One image in particular that struck me was his discussion of “oscillation”. The winter is bleak and flat, and the summer is teeming with life, the shape of the landscape made from the animals within it, with the Spring and Fall being just a few weeks in between, barely noticeable between the manic winter/summer split.
I’ve had many conversations with people here who also describe Portland weather as bi-polar, oscillating between the two poles of bright, hot, and dry, and dark, wet, and cold. There isn’t any inbetween, so much so that when it rained this week, I overheard lots of people on the bus complaining that it was “winter already” even though it didn’t get much colder than 60 degrees F. We’re not arctic by any means, but we do live in a place with two seasons, a city with two personalities. Spooky/Lush. Decrepit/Abundant. God bless Portland.

3 thoughts on “The weather and the world and other random thoughts.

  1. This makes me want to read Arctic Dreams. And to visit Portland again before it becomes dark and sleepy with winter. It’s kind of funny how the idea of the earth as a body does and doesn’t work. Days change, and seasons change, with enough predictability that we know when the sun will rise and set in our particular region, and when (to some degree) the temperature will turn colder, the wind will blow harder, or the flowers and plants will bloom. But like, for decades, scientists thought that plants and animals on the earth existed within some larger “ecosystem,” or series of ecosystems. But lately, they are increasingly questioning whether or not there is anything systemic, cyclical, or predictable about such lives and life forces. And how interesting to think about how we know what we know about our world, and whether what we know is right. Here is one of my favorite sayings on the matter: “When I hear that nature is a ruthless competitive struggle I think of the butterfly; and when I hear that it is a system of ultimate mutual advantage I think of the cyclone” (Raymond Williams).

    1. I’ve been thinking of you as I read this book. It is truly a narrative of spaces. I think you would really enjoy it, although it is a bit dated. And I get your point. Descriptions of nature are always shifting, nothing really works as a firm, stable, objective portrait. And nothing is more intuitive to us than to anthropomorphize, right?
      I wish I knew more about concepts of the “Evil Eye”. It seems to be along the same lines.

      1. Really? Tell me about the concept of the evil eye. I know very little about it, except from the Yiddish colloquialisms I’ve heard members of my family invoke over the years.

        And on the subject of anthropomorphism, Rachel, did you read that cover article of the New York Times Magazine a few weeks back? The one about whales? It’s kind of the opposite of anthropomorphizing, or rather, it makes the argument that whales actually do have feelings, and memory, and a sense of history. So beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes. Do check it out.

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