Archived Outdoors

Going toe to toe with Mother Nature

It is said that humans are fickle creatures, and if that is true, then the weather must be at least part human. For as of late, it never seems to cooperate.


The air is warm, and the sun is out during the week as people sit inside working, but come the weekend, when many finally have a chance to get outside, rain starts pouring down. And if you are like me, you prefer to stay in your warm, dry house and only leave when absolutely necessary.

This week, I made plans to go birding — a difficult task during inclement weather. Like us humans, birds hunker down, making them considerably harder to spot.

I had set my alarm for dark and early Saturday morning only to get a phone call from the woman leading the trip, saying the sopping weather forced them to cancel the outing. I proceeded to shake my fist angrily at Mother Nature, asking why she has doused the area with rain for what seems like every weekend so far this year.

But as I stood pondering the rain, I was reminded of one of my college literature courses. We read Dubliners by James Joyce, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and similarly depressing books and short stories. They depicted a harsh, uncaring world — a vision of life that is not untrue (but a vision I would like to think of as overly pessimistic).

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In that same class, we read the short story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London, somewhat of a “What not to do in the wilderness of Alaska” tale. In it, a man and his dog are separated from the rest of their camp. The hour is growing late and the weather colder. When he can’t find his comrades, the man plants himself under a tree for shelter and builds a fire for warmth.

In the end, the fire melts the snow on the tree branches, and a water-snow mix falls down, dousing the fire and causing the man to freeze to death. With his master dead, the dog trotted off down the trail, knowing exactly where to find the man’s companions.

As humans, we tend to personify everything. We put feelings and personalities onto animals. We have even thrust human traits onto the weather, referring to the controlling forces as Mother Nature and Jack Frost. When the weather is nice, we thank Mother Nature for her kindness, and when it’s poor, we wonder what humanity did to force her to lash out at us with wind, water or wintery weather.

London, whose stories are set in what most people would deem severe climates, reminds us that nature doesn’t have an agenda. Nature harbors neither good nor bad feelings toward us. It is neutral and without regard.

A harsh winter storm did not trap the man in London’s tale because it was taking a stance on his life choices. The weather in Alaska is naturally cold and snowy; such storms are a normal occurrence. It is people who disregard the weather and forget that nature has no regard for anyone or anything. 

So next Saturday, if I should once again find myself standing in my house staring at the rain, I will shake my fist at the clouds and ask Mother Nature why she wants to ruin my weekends. Why break a habit?

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