For most of my life on Long Island, I've been neither impressed nor depressed by the local weather. Once a season kicks in, if the temperature stays within 15 degrees of average, I tend not to pay too much attention. But lately I feel like I'm in the minority.
I'm not talking about the frigid February that was, or the frightening specter of that polar bear stranded on a block of ice; they certainly deserve our concern. But given that spring is here, weather is still a day-to-day obsession that I don't quite understand.
Among fans of the 24-hour Weather Channel is my husband, who sits mesmerized listening to atmospheric tumult. He's enthralled by the science, the power and the mystery behind everything from beach erosion to forensic meteorology. He watches footage of those who survived the latest deadly storm, eyes peeled on the radar map, calculating how far the chaos is from our block in Searingtown.
I get that high school girls need to know the temperature cause whole outfits depend on it. So do the farmers on the East End, women who love shoes, people running a marathon and brides getting married outdoors. But for the rest of us, what's the fascination with the endless combination and repetition of a relatively few weather patterns? Unless the Long Island Expressway is flooded or the schools are closed, who cares?
It appears, lots of us care. Someone once said nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if the weather didn't change once in awhile. Nothing unites an elevator quicker than a hot spell -- or breaks the ice faster than an upcoming storm. Try talking to someone in Florida between October and April without mentioning the weather on Long Island. It can't be done.
I watch each night, but honestly don't listen as the meteorologist on the 11 o'clock news points to the weather map and explains where the fronts that will affect the air temperature at 8 a.m. are coming from.
I don't pay much attention unless the forecasters roll up their sleeves to show how the dire weather pattern approaching the Nassau border is stressing them out.
I'm amazed at how often, after all those facts are processed and interpreted, after all the statistics and charts about recordkeeping for this date in history, after the computerized maps showing the moment the first snow flake will hit Hicksville, their predictions are still wrong.
To me, how I feel about the weather has more to do with my mood than anything else. If I'm happy, I'm hyper-aware and appreciative of a beautiful day. If I'm down, it passes unnoticed. On a stressful Monday morning, it's hard to see the snow as an exhilarating blanket of white, or the rain as restorative and smelling of life.
It takes the songwriters and poets to get beyond the Long Island Rail Road morning commute and see the fog resting on the hill, the sunshine on your shoulder, the wonderland that is winter.
Under Mother Nature's leadership, pesky, uncertain weather will triumph, no matter how carefully the facts are researched.
As we head toward the best six weather months of the year, the one prediction I'll rely on is George Carlin's: "Tonight's forecast -- dark."
Reader Marcia Byalick lives in Searingtown.