It's mid-April and I woke up to an inch of snow this morning, which is a bit jarring since it was nearly 80-degrees-F just 36 hours ago. The latest "Accuweather/No-Wait/Doppler/PowerofFive" forecast tells me that it will be cold again tonight but back near 70-degrees by this weekend, so there's no need to panic. For most of us, the brief wintry blast is good water-cooler conversation fodder and yet another prank by a particularly puckish "old man" winter.
Still, I can't help but think about those who lived here long before the internet, TV, newspapers and, even, the town crier. I'm thinking about the ancient peoples...you know, the ones living in sod huts and wearing pelts.
These were people who were far more in tune with the randomness versus predictability of nature. Having no TV or internet to distract them, they studied the stars and the movement of the sun, building large earthworks aligned with the equinox, and sitting around the nighttime fire noting every planetary path, shooting star and elusive comet. When the warm sun came out and temperatures hit 80-degrees, like they did for us last weekend, it was a joyous experience, particularly following a nasty winter (like we had.) The sun god must be happy. The sacrifices must have pleased.
And then, overnight, the temperatures plunge and they wake up with snow over their huts! Uh oh. There must have been some finger pointing around the commune, "Okay, who hacked off the gods?" "Harvey, was it you? Didn't I see you sneak behind the pine tree yesterday to smoke some elderberry leaves?"
And then, "We need to make it right with the gods again, guys....any suggestions? Anyone willing to be sacrificed? Come on, guys, my wife just packed the winter pelts away in the cedar chest so we'd better do something now or we'll never see a warm day again!"
And then, miraculously, two days later, the sun is back out and the temperatures are back in the 70s. The gods must be pleased again. Harvey, if he wasn't offered up as sacrifice, was vindicated.
It's natural for any living thing to seek out the predictable. Our fish, dogs and cat expect to be fed every day at the exact same time. When our dog, Charlie, barks at the door, he expects someone to open it. Thunder scares them, I think, because it's random and occasional. Even plants know when to bud, not by the changes in weather as much as the lengthening of daily daylight.
People are the same way, too...we seek out routines that lead to expected outcomes. Every morning, I follow a precisely repetitious routine, lest I stand in the shower standing there wondering if I already washed my hair.
Unpredictable events can be exciting and provide an occasional thrill, but lets face it: the desire to seek out the predictable is ingrained deep in our DNA. Today's snow didn't bother me in the least, but that's because I haven't gotten my loincloth and summer leggings out of the cedar chest yet. Oh, and I also read the National Weather Service forecast.