The weather has been unseasonably warm recently. Usually, at this time in January, the local temperature is bouncing around zero degrees Fahrenheit and the heavy cloudcover means I don’t see the sun for weeks at a time. This year, the only zero the temperature is jumping around is zero degrees Celcius. We’ve had multiple days with almost no wind, a decent amount of sun, and tons of humidity (enough that work is staying at a damp 20% humidity or higher instead of it’s usual mid-winter single-digit levels). All of which followed a week of blistering cold that finished off all the plants still clinging to life thanks to the unusually warm fall we had. Now, as I go for my walks amongst the browns and yellows of dead plant matter, it feels like I missed two months somehow and wound up skipping ahead to late March.
One of my strongest senses is my sense of smell. I’m no bloodhound or anything, but I’m one of those people who can take a deep breath and tell you if it’s going to rain (or snow) later in the day. I can tell when a wind coming down from the north is heralding colder temperatures or just passing by. I can tell if water is distilled, tap, or mineral. I can tell how I need to adjust my recipes just from a quick noseful of the steam coming off them. I can tell when a pizza is done cooking without looking. As a result of this strong sense of smell and the way that sensory memory association works, I have a tendency to set my internal seasonal calendar by the scents that come and go when I’m outside. Woodsmoke and crisp, cool breezes make me think of Fall. The crystalline bite of snow and salt along with a sharp tang on the wind make me think of Winter. The heady weight of revealed decay mixed with the damp caress of warmer winds make me think of Spring. All of which means my nose is telling me that we’ve got warm days and sunlight ahead when the calendar tells me that those are probably a few months away still.
That said, the forecast seems to agree with my nose, since the temperatures are predicted to rise and fall around the thirties and low forties for the next ten days. There’s time yet for all that to change, of course, but the patterns of the past year make it seem like we might have gotten all the winter we’re going to get aside from an echo of it here or there. Like last year’s spring. The whole thing lasted a single week and then it was just summer, so maybe we’re getting an encore of that weirdness with a week-long winter. Which, you know, I prefer over the six months of bullshit we had last year, but I’d definitely rather have seasons that last the appropriate amount of time so that I could stop worrying that our weather patterns are just broken despite some of them being tied to the orbit and orientation of the planet.
Initially, I’d thought about writing this post as some kind of long-form poetry, like I’m wont to do when I get some kind of sensation or feeling stuck in my head, but every attempt at it wound up going in a pretty dark and anxious direction. After all, it’s difficult not to tie the faint but unmistakeable scent of decay and rot in the air to the decay and rot of society/humanity as we destroy the only planet we’ve got. All of my allusions and descriptions got darker and darker, and not in the “decay is an extant form of life” fun way. They all wound up focused around the “we’re circling the drain and ignoring the rot around us as we get stuck thinking like individuals rather than banding together to address problems as a group since those in power are doing their best to prevent the formation of such powerful groups because we might go after them when we realize most of the problems preventing us from saving our planet are the systemic issues of governance and rampant capitalism that drive so much of how Humanity as a whole behaves these days rather than actual inability” kind of way. Which, you know, both is and isn’t the energy I’d like to bring to this blog. I wish I had the emotional energy to do a good job of writing that kind of stuff right now, but I don’t so I’m not going to push myself.
Instead, I’m going to reflect on the smell of death and decay as I go for my daily walks to soak up what sun I can (today wound up being foggy all day, so I got none of the sun the morning’s forecast promised) while stretching my legs. There’s not much I can do to address climate change and the ruining of Earth by rampant capitalism and the one percent atop the heap that I’m not already doing, so all that remains is to deal with my anxiety in a way that lets me keep working. I hope your winter is going better than mine is, however you want to define “better,” and I hope that this post didn’t add much to your own anxiety. Unless you’re in the Midwest. If you’re in the Midwest, then, well, you were probably already anxious and this either didn’t bother you or got you to the appropriate level of anxiety for the situation we’re facing.