Once upon a time I lived a life where the weather was outside. It was Other. It was something that happened out the window. Something I merely went through to get from one inside space to the next inside space. From my front door to the bus, from the bus to the office.
Thank god that’s not true anymore.
The moment I started sailing, the weather took on an entirely different meaning to me. Suddenly, it became the most important thing in my life, it defined everything I did.
Not only would I need to look at the general forecast, I would need to look at the week’s forecast, the pressure charts, figuring out for myself what those rolling lows hundreds of miles away had up their sleeves. I’d need to look outside, stand outside, study the clouds, the wind, the waves.
Once I saw a tropical wave coming off Africa thousands of miles away. Two weeks later I felt the affects.
Subtle changes the wind direction would mean I had to change anchorage, sometimes sailing for hours or days to find a safer one. Or it was the swell, the waves that would do it. A storm a thousand miles away could create dangerous swell where I was just a day or two later.
Other times I would watch, hungrily, for the squalls. Setting up tarpaulins to catch the ten minute deluge; filling up buckets, bottles and even the kettle with the cloud filtered water.
If the weather was rough, I wouldn’t even be able to make it to a safe anchorage, the chop making the rocky entrance too dangerous or the cloud obscuring the unchartered yet fatal coral reefs.
And even now, now that I’m snug in my cosy apartment in the alps, the weather still defines my activities. Can I go up the mountain today? Will the visibility be good enough? Is the avalanche level too high to go off-piste? Can I drive the car to the shops? Is it snowed in?
Extreme weather tends to focus our attention. Just yesterday huge swathes of the UK were on the edge of their seats, waiting to see if the storm surge would make good on its threat.
We joke, as a nation, that our ‘extremes’ are paranoia, exaggeration while nordic countries deal with real blizzards every year. But we are a country with mild weather, weather that we take for granted and that’s what makes it dangerous and extreme. We serially underestimate its power.
It’s not just the risk of weather that I think is important to appreciate though. I love how important weather has become to me even when, technically, it doesn’t need to be.
I am always aware of the temperature, the systems moving across countries and oceans, the bizarre out of season storms in one place or another. I love it’s connectivity, how this blizzard came from thousands of miles away, how that storm started somewhere near Mexico.
Even if we’re stuck in our offices, chained to our desks, driving in our cars or never seeing daylight in the darkest of winter, it’s the weather that can connect us to the rest of the world. Because my weather is your weather is the weather that sailors are watching half the world away. It’s all part of one global system.
It’s really the weather that connects us, not the internet.
Even more than being connected to the entire world via its atmospheric conditions, it’s the weather that gives life. The weather that makes forests green, spreads seeds, allows spiders to weave webs across expanses and gives us drinking water. It was the seasonal floodings of the Nile that created the fertile pastures that Ancient Egypt flourished on. The rain isn’t inconvenient, it’s one of the fundamental things that allows us to live.
And that’s why I’m so thankful that I live a life defined by the weather. It’s given me an appreciation for something I took so utterly for granted before.
If you want to see one of the prettiest views of global weather than check out Windy TV and zoom out. It’s amazing.