In my world, the one I run, fall stretches all the way from July to November, blustery and grey-orange, coming in consistently somewhere around 55 degrees, with a December-long winter to follow. Snow every day for the month of December, the soft, sparkly kind that never quite makes it to turning to slush. Then, come January 1st, spring breaks through with its rains and buds, carrying us all the way to June, a month of sun and swimming, 80 degrees, no more, no less. That’s my treatise on weather. That’s what I would like if I were so lucky as to be queen of the world. Don’t tell me that the ecosystem would fail, that stars would plummet from the sky, that all manner of animals would woe-begotten wander, reeling from unsuitable conditions, that the plants I adore would cease to exist. I don’t accept that. In my world, the weather is fine and we are all safe in the conditions we meet. And, still, I’m sure we would find things to complain about. Humans always do.
My friend Margaret had a different answer to the same question, her own treatise on weather. She and I stumbled accidentally upon this thought experiment over chocolate chip cookies on Thursday. Her monthly allotments varied slightly, with a strong emphasis on rain in both the spring and fall (she’s a rainy gal, in the best way), a short summer, and a longer winter (despite her mysterious allergy to cold weather.) I asked Isaiah what his treatise on weather would be later, once Margaret left, and I practically had to squeeze the answer out of him. His thoughts on these sorts of things are usually too complex to come out succinctly. “I like blustery days and when the air is moist when it’s been raining,” he said, among other things. None of us praised summer or winter purely, the peaks and valleys of the weather spectrum. No, we liked the nuances, the middles, the fusions of elements of everything. Margaret likes her sun in the winter. I like my sun in the spring cutting through the rain. Isaiah adores the wind, and I like a cloud-covered fall.
Right now the weather in Chicago is fickle and in-between. Cool in the mornings but hot by afternoon. I wishfully put on sweaters in the morning only to have to peel them off two hours later, sweaty and annoyed. I must admit that I like the in-between seasons best, as I think a lot of adults do. I’m reading Bluets by Maggie Nelson, a book about the writer’s relentless fixation on the color blue and all the blue-ness that surrounds it. She writes this: “I’ve read that children pretty much prefer red hands down over all other colors; the shift into liking cooler tones -such as blue- happens as they grow older…It is tempting to derive some kind of maturity narrative here: eventually we sober up and grow out of our rash love of intensity (i.e. red); eventually, we learn to love more subtle things with more subtlety, etc. etc. But my love for blue has never felt to me like a maturing, or a refinement, or a settling.”
Reading Bluets has been a very particular experience because I’ve been feeling a certain sort of blue, too, although not quite to the degree of Nelson’s, apparently. I’m stuck on her thought that although it appears that maturity lends itself to a mellowing of tastes, a natural and overwhelming shift from red to blue, it rather brings a new sort of intensity. It’s true. I feel my life and myself and my being and my needs intensifying, solidifying, grabbing a hold of themselves more every day. Not only do I like the middle seasons best, but I need them, I long for them with a longing I didn’t know I possessed. I step into poems, I walk in desire, I miss things, I wait for things, I toss and turn and wonder when a change will actually come. I worry that I’ve already missed it, that things have shifted and I hardly noticed. I worry that the blue is unreachable, unfillable. I remember the contentment of my childhood. Things are different now. I know too much. I want too much. I see too many things going wrong and not enough right. I cry for my city, I wonder where else I could go. I want to seize every moment of the weather I like, roll around in it, do nothing but enjoy it. I’m growing up, and it is uncomfortable.
I don’t have any sort of statement on how I think the world should be or how it could be better. I also don’t have a statement on how I think a person should be or how I could be better. I just want some lovely weather, the sort that feels just right, and I want to roll around in it. I want some rain when it’s time for rain, and I want snow for a little while, and I want a soft place to sit when the day is through and during the day too. I want a lot of things, and for some reason it is my strongest impulse right now to write it all down, to regard my wants, to tell you for some reason.
I’ve heard before that twenty-somethings are naturally self-absorbed. That we can’t help it, that it’s the stage of development we are in. The stage of claiming ourselves. The stage of choosing things for real this time, not just hypothetically. That our view is small, like through a pinhole. Like we can’t help it.
I’m startled by my self-absorbedness, my ability to write about what’s in my brain over and over, my strong needs and opinions, my wanting to shout, “Where will I be safe?!” to everyone at all times. It’s intense, and only getting more-so. Bright blue, deepening and deepening like Maggie Nelson said. The more I find out who I am at the core of me, the more I slip down and down into something wild and unspeakable, something alarming but fantastic, something that bids me to keep speaking, lest I forget. The more I find out, the more I need to bring the blue back around, holding it out in my hands, saying, “LOOK!”
Is this why I find the need to write personal essays, to declare what weather I like, to write everything from my point of view, to see only through my tiny pinhole? When I actually think about it, it seems very silly. But I’m not sure that I can do anything else right now. I know I want to write. I’m writing what I have to write, I’m bringing what I have in my pockets right this second, I have no grand plan for something to change the world or fix someone else’s life or do anything bigger than the me-sized footprint I take up. I only know about my treatise on weather. I’m sure everyone has their own treatise on weather, and I’m sure they are all thoughtful and interesting, but I only know about mine. They say that you should only write if you absolutely have to, and I have to right now. But it’s going to keep being personal, and it’s going to keep being me, and it’s going to keep having pinhole-sized declarations about weather because it’s all I can see.
It makes me feel better when I remember that all writers write about themselves in some way or another. That it’s part of the gig. That I’m not crazy. But I guess I have to start really calling myself a writer if I’m going to keep writing. I guess I have to do that. I guess I already am. It’s ontological, sort of, to name oneself. To say, “I am this.” At least, Madeleine L’Engle would say so. In A Circle of Quiet, she says a lot of things, this included: “If I accept the fact that I, ontologically speaking, was born a writer, was named Madeleine, am an inextricable blend of writer, wife, mother, then my virtue, or talent, is quite aside from the point.” I have to believe this. I have to. I have to believe that I am ontologically something, that I have a cosmic name, that God, at least, knows who I am and what I am to do. I’m here, twenty-three, and messily figuring it out, really hoping not to squash anyone else, and hoping for some company along the way. Which is why I keep writing here. Which is why I’m intending to write more and more and more. I’m refusing to accept the thought that it is silly, that writing does not belong to me. I’m exploring it ontologically, like it is a part of who I am, because, somehow, I think it is.
I’d really love for it to be 55 degrees. In fact, I need it to be, and sometime soon. That may not be what you need, though. Maybe that’s why none of us run the world. God is much better at it, taking care of all of us and the plants and the animals too, making minute adjustments when necessary, but completely efforlessly, like the earth has muscle memory, like it’s so fine-tuned that even the ways we are ruining it with pollution and the ozone can’t mess it up completely, like it’s way bigger than us because it is. No matter how many times I shout my tiny-ness, it never actually changes the world in all its bigness, and I’m glad of that. Because, really, I’m certain I’d mess it all up. I only see through a pinhole, after all, through a glass darkly. I talk a big talk, but I’m really just hiding in my small apartment in Chicago, you see. Taking shelter. Wondering mostly. Waiting for the weather, and writing about it, quietly, because I must.