Round these parts, conversations tend to take a well trodden path. I’m talking about the weather, of course.
“Cold today, eh?”
“Such rain! My god.”
“Warmer next week.”
It was something Alexis and I chuckled over, when we spoke. One of many reassuringly familiar aspects of life in Portugal is the obsession with the weather, much as it used to be back in England. The joys of temperate climates, I suppose, where the changes are something to be remarked on. (Perhaps if we lived in the Arctic there’d be less variation to comment on).
It’s a cliché, isn’t it, this kind of chat; renowned for being the stuff of smalltalk and meaningless talk for talk’s sake. What’s the point, I suppose, of commenting on what the temperature is or whether the snow might return next week? Shouldn’t we be speaking of politics or economics, or using our brains to do something More Important?
Nothing’s more important than right now
As I explore this seasonal way of living further, however, I am beginning to realise that there isn’t much else I believe to be more important then these observations. Which isn’t to say that I don’t think we should save the world, but that doing so might involve slowing down and observing what’s happening around us a lot more than spouting forth on what we think is right.
To put it another way, if we spent more time feeling into the present and tuning into the clues as to what is coming our way tomorrow, we’d have less time to spare to sit in judgement of others, and ourselves. We can be critical of the weather – my neighbours are pretty scathing about any temperature below what I’d consider to be a balmy Spring evening – but we can’t deny it. It forms, in fact, a common ground, a shared experience that whatever our political leanings or way of life, affects us.
Weather talk’s important to communities like mine because a lot of us are farmers or growers of some kind. A cold spring or a late summer impacts us the way a drop in the Dow Jones might bring the stock market to a standstill. And the fact is, in the long term the change in climate is one that will affect all of us, whether we like it or not. Talk about the weather reminds us that things are not what they used to be; if we’re sensible, we’ll pay heed to that.
Here in the mountains, spring’s arriving in howling winds and torrential rain. It’s blowing in new ideas and energy; our family’s long awaited house purchase is finally creaking into gear, and I’m beginning to allow myself to consider what this will mean. A garden; a farm; a little stone cottage with views of the hills that still have snow on.
As a writer, rooting myself in one place is a practice that I know will bear fruit of a kind I haven’t experienced in my life thus far, spending a few years at the most in a place before moving on. Spring brings change, and like the weather it’s bound to have an impact on my thoughts and emotions, but it’s also something ephemeral, passing.
Beneath it all is a slower, deeper heartbeat, and when we connect to observe the changes we reinforce the bonds that don’t move. Our commitments to our neighbours; our shared experience of being human on this earth.
I think weather talk might be the most important talk there is.