Standing Ready

Predicting Colorado weather has to be the most thankless job around.

If you’ve lived here for any length of time, you know what I mean. Whether it comes from the mountains meeting the plains, or some weird cosmic vibrations out of Boulder, or just the cumulative atmospheric effects of too many disappointing Rockies baseball seasons, Colorado weather is weird.

This is where the Four Seasons isn’t a hotel, it’s a 24-hour period. Where the morning’s T-shirt may turn into the afternoon’s parka. Where a school-closing storm can be followed by a perfect day to walk the dog.

Given that, is it any wonder that we get a little cynical at proclamations of snowy doom?

By the time this appears in print, we’ll know for sure whether the latest Snow My Goodness really was the storm of ages or just the usual shoveling and muttering of Colorado’s annual welcome to spring. This region has had some epic snows and everyone has their favorite to talk about:  the Christmas Blizzard of ’82; the roof-busters of 2003; the 2006 storms that piled on like a network TV show, claiming a regular Thursday slot. But we’ve also seen enough doom-and-disaster prophecies go bust to reflexively roll our eyes anytime a TV personality uses the words “Snowmageddon” or “Snowpocalypse.”

But here’s the thing. For all the sarcasm – we still prepare. We may not believe, but we prepare.

Why? Because the potential cost of not doing it is just too darned high.

We’ve learned that from tornado warnings: head to the basement, because even if the last 12 ended harmlessly, there’s no guarantee on the 13th.  

We’ve learned that from wildfires and floods: get out quick when the warning comes, because the longer you linger, the harder it becomes to leave.

And over this last year, a lot of us have learned that again and again from the pandemic.

By now, most of us can recite it like a mantra. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Keep at least six feet away. And when something slips, like a party on the Hill or a burst of Memorial Day impatience,  we see the curves rise and get a fresh reminder of why it’s important.

It’s been tedious, even for the dedicated introverts among us. Constant vigilance is tiring and there’s always the temptation to say “Forget it, I’ll be OK just this once.”

But we know better. As the old adage goes, it’s better to prepare without need than to need and not prepare.

So we do what we need to do. For ourselves. For our neighbors. For our community.

Sometimes the predicted danger melts away like a seventh-inning chance at Coors Field, and we share a laugh at the hype (and maybe a quiet sigh of relief). But when the preparation and endurance pay off – that’s when we come out the other end with gratitude and another story to tell.

So whether today’s landscape looks like a typical Longmont March or a remake of “Nanook of the North,”  thank you for being ready. For yesterday’s warning. For tomorrow’s. And especially for the ongoing one that we’re finally starting to push back as hope rises and the shots roll out.

That’s how we make it through. Not panicking, but not foolhardy either. Eventually, that caution and care will bring us out the other side and we can return to a slightly less stressful existence.

Well … everyone except the weather forecasters, anyway.

Seeing Outside the ‘Box’

Apparently, this year is for the birds.

If you don’t quite see where this is going … well, that’s kind of appropriate. Neither did a Utah teenager who decided to blindfold herself while going for a drive a few days ago. The short sightless trip ended up just about as you’d expect, though thankfully the resulting two-car crash produced no fatalities or injuries.

Why the blindfold? If you’ve been watching Netflix, you probably already know the answer. Yes, this was the latest turn in the Bird Box Challenge, an attempt to imitate a thriller where failing to cover your eyes leads to horrific visions and death.

In this case, of course, the horrific visions are the ones posted on YouTube as non-actors attempt to accomplish everyday tasks with their eyes covered. Sometimes with collision or injury resulting.

“Can’t believe I have to say this, but PLEASE DO NOT HURT YOURSELVES WITH THIS BIRD BOX CHALLENGE,” Netflix tweeted in response to the fad. “We don’t know how this started, and we appreciate the love, but Boy and Girl have just one wish for 2019 and it is that you not end up in the hospital due to memes.”

I have to admit that calling this out feels a little hypocritical. When I was in junior high school, my sisters and I invented the highly original game known as “Blackout Tag.” To play, you simply descended into the basement, turned out every light source until the surroundings were pitch black, and then played tag while crawling on your hands and knees. (Why crawling? Safety, of course!)

We only played once. Charging headfirst into a table leg in the course of the game will do that. It remains the stupidest black eye I have ever received, and probably the one least believed by my friends at the time. “Oh, you ‘ran into a table leg.’ Yeah, sure. Right. How big was the table and what grade was he in?”

Anyone could have seen it coming. Except us. We didn’t just turn out the lights – we turned out any thought of possible consequences.

Sound familiar?

As a species, we’re good at not seeing what’s right in front of our faces. Sometimes it’s just because we live life by reflex. Most of us, I think, have driven home without any real awareness of the road or the buildings on either side – not because of a blindfold, but because we’ve seen the route so many times that we don’t see it any more.

Other times – well, other times, it’s a little more willful. We encounter facts that are inconvenient. Or pain that we don’t want to think about. Or rumors that are so nice to just believe. And so, we cover our eyes, not wanting to challenge our view of the way the world works, looking away from anything that might shake up the way we’ve always lived our life.

That has consequences. Not always as dramatic as a two-car crash on a Utah parkway, but potentially, just as harmful.

It means a lack of empathy, because we fail to see others as meaningful and worthy of care.

It means a lack of cooperation, because we fail to see anyone’s view but our own.

It means a lack of foresight, because we fail to see dangers we could plan for – or worse, blindfold ourselves by fixating on dangers that don’t exist.

“Bird Box” isn’t entirely wrong. Choosing to see can be painful. It can change your life, and not always in comfortable ways. But while voluntary blindness may make tense, entertaining fiction, sight is the real survival skill.

Open the box. You might just appreciate the bird’s-eye view.

Certainly the drivers around you will.

Forward With Resolution

I opened our Christmas present from my brother-in-law and his wife … and started to laugh.

“Brad, Rena,” I told them, “you guys have to open our gift now.”

They did – and soon joined the laughter. Somehow, in a fit of holiday inspiration, we’d gotten each other the same board game.

“Good taste!” we agreed.

Somehow, it seems a fitting way to enter the new year.

I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s Eve festivities.  It’s not really my kind of holiday – I don’t drink, I’m not a huge party-goer, I already stay up past midnight, and the whole year-in-review business, while kind of fun, reminds me too much of work.

But the core of it all – and you knew this was coming – are the resolutions.

Those famous, impossible resolutions.

A lot of us make them. Almost none of us keep them. I’ve seen one set of statistics that suggests a 90 percent failure rate; frankly, I suspect that’s on the low side.

We keep doing it, of course. After all, it’s a new year, a turn of the calendar, a roll of Father Time’s odometer. Perfect time for a fresh start, right?

Until it isn’t.

So why do we blow it so badly?

OK, some of it might be the natural collision of willpower with won’t power. But I think there’s something more.

I think we overestimate our foresight.

I’ve known my brother-in-law for 14 years. We’ve got a good idea of each other’s characters, our likes and dislikes, a little bit of personal history. Armed with all that, we still couldn’t predict that we’d wind up with matching gifts.

If I can’t even anticipate that, how the heck do I go about predicting what I’ll most need to do for an entire year?

Like a lot of generals, we fight the last war. At this point last year, I had decided that my main goal was going to be to write for myself a bit more, maybe even get something published. A worthy enough goal, certainly within my abilities.

Since I’m writing it in this column, you can guess what the result was. And I don’t mean a No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

But the thing is, the year was far from wasted.

This was the year of a new home, a new family. This was the year Heather and I became guardians for her young aunt Missy, a role that’s led me to be a combination parent, big brother, and friend.  It’s a year where I got to enjoy the role of “Uncle Scott” to my infant nieces and nephew; a time where I continued to write in the midst of an often topsy-turvy industry; even a time where I got to be part of one of the best shows the Longmont Theatre Company has ever produced (he said modestly).  I celebrated at a relative’s wedding and then cried at her husband’s funeral before the year was out.

Almost none of that could have been anticipated on  Dec. 31, 2010.

It’s said that every general fights the last war. I think we do the same with our lives. We think next year will be last year with minor revisions. Sometimes it’s true. More often, there’s surprises.

And in the face of that, all our resolutions and plans go out the window.

Mind you, it’s not a useless thing to set goals. But the best resolutions are those made every morning, not every year. They’re the ones where you can look at the day ahead, look at the life that faces you, and decide “This will be the best day it can be.” And then do your best to make it so.

A year is a long span. As you cross it, remember that each day is a gift.

And  no one else will unwrap one quite like it.