Weekend Winter

Colorado has many things that define “consistent.” Like the presence of the Rocky Mountains. Or the awfulness of Rockies relief pitchers. Things that stay the same week after week, year after year.

But weather?

If you’ve hung around this corner of the Front Range for the past three weeks, you know what I’m talking about. Mild throughout the work week … maybe cold, maybe warmer, but definitely dry. And then once the weekend arrives: BAM! Snow and ice time.

It’s been regular as a clock. Steady as a metronome. And probably a little frustrating to 1) students hoping for a snow day or 2) anyone hoping for a Saturday that doesn’t involve slip-sliding away.

I know, I know, it’s winter. (My favorite time of year, as it happens.) Snow comes with the territory. But it usually doesn’t come with a punch clock.

Again, if you live here, you get it.

Everyone talks about how their state’s weather is wild. Colorado is the one where you can get all four seasons before lunch. It’s where a meteorologist’s kit includes a dartboard, dice and a voodoo doll of Mother Nature. (Am I right, Mike Nelson?) As the story goes, if your outfit for the day includes a parka AND Birkenstocks, you might just be a Coloradan.

Steady, scheduled weather just doesn’t fit the profile.

It’s not the story we’re used to telling. And that’s always a little unsettling.

We like stories. We’re storytellers by nature, either trying to explain the world we’ve got, remember the world we had or describe the world that could be. Depending on the tools we use, the result may be epic myth, rigorous science, conspiracy theory or the next hit series of blockbuster films. But at some level, it helps us define patterns and discern reasons …or at least, feel like we are.

The trick comes, of course, when we’re trying to impose a pattern rather than discover one. That’s relatively harmless when we’re seeing shapes in clouds. It can be downright marvelous when it leads someone to write an engrossing novel or the next hit song. But it gets more treacherous when a deeply-held story collides with reality and the story wins.

We get comfortable in how we see the world. And when the world argues with us, a lot of us tend to argue back. Better to hold your ground, be consistent, prove you’re right – or is it?

“When events change, I change my mind,” the economist Paul Samuelson once said (later crediting a similar thought to John Maynard Keynes). “What do you do?”

Easy to say, especially from the outside. But it’s harder to do. It requires humility to change your mind in the face of evidence. It requires awareness rather than acceptance, constant questioning rather than confident certainty.

In other words, it takes work. And a willingness to change.

When we can do it, the result is a better story for all of us.

The weekend winters will shift eventually. (Right?) The memory will become another story. As we write our next one, look around with clear eyes and a thoughtful mind. You might find more than you think.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to find a shovel and some ice melt. After all, Saturday will be here before we know it.

Dis-pursed

Reality has been shaken.

OK, I know that’s nothing new. After all, we’re still grappling with an ever-shifting pandemic. UFOs and artificially intelligent chatbots have made this year’s headlines look like a science fiction blockbuster. And the Broncos haven’t been to the playoffs since 2015. But this is big.

Missy’s purse has left the storyline.

A sign of the apocalypse, indeed.

You may be new here. If so, suffice to say that for our disabled ward Missy – my age physically, but much younger inside – a Big Red Purse has been her constant companion since before Heather and I were married. It’s a pairing on the level of Han Solo and Chewbacca, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, or even Taylor Swift and breakup songs. That serious.

But the world shifted on its axis a couple of months ago when a weekend cleanup uncovered an ancient treasure – a forgotten bottle of pop beads, a little larger than a football. We dusted it off and passed it over, figuring the rediscovery would fill a quiet afternoon.

Click.

That Bottle O’ Beads™ has become Missy’s new sidekick. At any given moment, her hands are likely to be busily screwing the lid on or off (or at least attempting to) and then quietly assembling and breaking down a new string of beads. Her need to fidget and her love of arts and crafts seems to have found its natural crossroads.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

It has its advantages. The old purses attracted material like a black hole – stuffed animals, small books, acres of Kleenex and the proverbial Partridge in a Pear Tree – eventually reaching a level of density that weighed down her shoulder and wore out the strap. (Any rumors that we occasionally helped the strap along will be officially denied at the next press conference.) Missy’s new friend is a lot lighter, even if it does sometimes need an Official Sherpa to carry it up and down the stairs for her while she holds on to the bannisters.

For a while, I kept looking for The Purse Returned to make a reappearance, chosen from among the many in her closet. Missy’s habits tend to set themselves pretty firmly, after all.  But this seems to be a lasting shift. For now, anyway.

A contradiction? Not really. All “lasting” things have a way of being temporary, depending on where you set the scale.

But it always shakes us a little, doesn’t it? Maybe even more than a little.  

Sometimes it’s just an annoyance, like a style that shifted or a tech that moved on.  (“I have a cabinet full of VHS tapes, what do you mean I can’t find a VCR anymore?”) Other times, it touches us a little more deeply. New discoveries, for better or worse, about a friend we thought we knew. Changes in work, in life or in the world that force us to redefine who we are. We grapple with unexpected concepts, including one that should be no surprise at all: that “normal” is just what we’re used to. And that’s a very, very fragile thing indeed.

That doesn’t mean we can’t try to preserve the things worth keeping. But it does mean we can’t set our feet in concrete. However appealing consistency may sound (and I’m right there with you), we have to be ready to adapt. Kids grow up. Worlds change. And yes, even purses come and go.

Funny thing about pop beads. There’s always a new way to assemble them. No matter what pieces happen to come to your hand.

Maybe Missy’s on to something.

I’ll just have to see what pops up next.