Lessons Learned in the American South: #3 God controls the weather


My calculus teacher in high school was married to a meteorologist for Channel 5 News.  The days before unit exams, we all collectively begged Mrs. Calculus-Teacher to use her wifely leverage to put in a request for some snow flurries.  Nothing shuts down southern cities like the threat of a few damp flakes descending to stifle bleached hair follicles and mislead drivers despite their best efforts to stay on the pavement.  “Or maybe just a baby tornado?” we’d query, “not too dangerous, but enough to worry Mr. Snow.”  (Mr. Snow was in charge of school cancellations in my district.  Whether his name was actually Mr. Snow or it was a nickname assigned by grateful students after a few years of generous recesses, I don’t know.)  Despite our most persuasive solicitations, despite Mrs. Calculus-Teacher’s requests filed on our behalf, and despite the directed efforts of Mr. Hubby-of-Calculus-Teacher in the Channel 5 meteorologist lab, clear skies always accompanied test days.

We students engaged other equally ineffectual rituals as well: tribal snow dances, sleeping with our pajamas inside-out, ceremoniously invoking the spirit of Mr. Snow through chanting and incense burning–all to no avail.  Why?  Because we ignored one of the sagely lessons of the American South.  Weather patterns are not determinable by meteorologists, superstitious ceremonies, nor Mr. Snow himself.  Just ask the pastor at the nearest church, or any member of his congregation.  They will know.  Only God controls the weather.

But, before you scuff up your knees sending eloquent entreaties for sunshine to the Holy One, consider a few little foibles of this lesson.

  1. God is not the weatherman.  Just because God controls the weather, doesn’t mean He’s going to let you in on the details.  He does not believe in full disclosure, and definitely has no interest in competing with the Local on the Eights.
  2. God will not plan around you.  He may or may not have plans for you, but they definitely do not take your personal travel itinerary into consideration.  The skies bend to his caprices.  Bad weather is not a hostile attempt to foil your travel plans; but, hey, after infinite time has passed with no end in sight, God had to do something to spice up eternity.
  3. God may or may not be teaching you a lesson.  Like most things, the significance or meaningless of weather can be interpreted as you please.  Allow the weather to guide your travels toward activities or destinations you might not otherwise engage.  Or, unabashedly stick to your schedule.  Torrential rains might be a warning, a consequence of bad karma, or simply the blessed end of a dry spell.  If you are traveling in the American South, head towards any visible steeple and chances are there is a bank next door.  Whip out your ATM card,  get some cash, and buy an umbrella.
  4. Weather is not God’s gift to the conversationally clumsy.  Interesting people can swap insights on  atmospheric goings on all day without wearing out.  But, if mentioning the current conditions is your desperate attempt at small talk in a hostel, it will be painfully obvious.  Please, find some new ice breakers.

Lastly, in the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday (celebrated yesterday across America), I urge you to close your eyes for a quick thank you every day.  Part of the charm of the world is its climatic symphony, the waltz of the seasons, the suspenseful tremolo of never knowing what the sky might send your way.  Even if Tony Perkins is your idol, take a moment to savor the mystery in each new morning, which keeps forecasting just inaccurate enough that students stay up at night performing all sorts of well-rehearsed nonsense to provoke the snow.  It’s awfully entertaining.

P.S.  Today is glorious: 55ºF, undisturbed sunshine, the crown of  a southern November.

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