Matlock – It is cooler here this summer than any in recent memory. Unlike last summer, the mosquitoes aren’t instantly dehydrated in the sun – too bad for us; good for them. There were no mosquitoes this winter in Mendocino. But there was heat. Some afternoons the temperature in the Stanford Inn’s gardens reached 80F or 27C, while the average high is 57F or 14C.
From 1998 to 2008, global average temperature actually dropped and David R. Easterling of NOAA’s* National Climatic Data Center and Michael Wehner of the Computational Research Division at the DOE’s** Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory warn that such anomalies to the pattern of global warming are just that, anomalies. Other writers claim that the decade long drop in average temperature is ‘proof’ that the model for global warming is incorrect.
Planetary weather is complex and I am not a climatologist. My perspective has little to do with arguments regarding changes in planetary climate. But thinking about the weather gets me thinking about the nature of change and perception. Perception is awareness of change and a function of consciousness. Consciousness is composed of two phenomenon – that which changes and that which is beyond change and ineffable and therefore far beyond the scope of this writing.
Change: I am aware that temperatures are not what I am used to – it was hot in Mendocino in the winter and cold in Matlock both in the winter and, now, the summer. The climate is changing. I am aware of these changes. If there was no change, I probably would not be aware of climate at all – it would be much like the CMB cosmic microwave background – just “there” – or “here” – wherever that is!
A “thing” related to another “thing” – 80F today, while yesterday it was 50F – this is the content in this movement in consciousness. Awareness of changing averages can become contemplative – and emerges into another experience: Going deeply into this change – into the perception itself, of the comparison allowing me to “know” that today is hotter than yesterday is contemplation. And when I am contemplating the weather, where am I?
Am I here, now, experiencing the warmth, birds chirping, lawnmower humming across the road; the smells of freshly mowed grass and the mustiness of an old cottage? When I am truly listening, smelling, seeing, I no longer know that it is hotter today than yesterday. I don’t even know “today” which can only exist in contrast to another day.
Lost in thought, in contemplation, experience is just as lost in the moment as it is when in the I am lost in the senses. But there’s a difference. In the latter emerges a sense of something beyond myself. A presence of what some have called the beloved and others, spirit.
Reflecting on this, now, while no longer present in the smell of cut grass, the experience becomes classified and perhaps calcified. But the memory is that the moment was perfect – the robin chirping in the grass, the variety of greens dominating my sight, all of it. And our sense, moving out of this reflection, is to preserve it, to not harm it. And it is the moments of awareness that inform how we eat, the decisions we make regarding the products we use. These decisions are guided by a desire to not harm the beauty of this place, this planet.
Knowing that yesterday was cooler does not have the same power – it is not evocative. There are interpretations and experts and we get lost in the data and debates over their meanings. But there’s no debate from the experience of mowed grass, robins chirping…. Try it.
Joan and Jeff
*National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
**Department of Energy