Smoke

Missoula Valley. Photo Credit: Brian Christianson Photography

Here in Missoula, Montana we’re in the midst of our fifth annual season: fire season. In western Montana, the order is as follows: winter, spring, summer, fire, fall. So the “water cooler” talk right now in town is centered largely around air quality and wildfire activity. Whether at the check-out line in the grocery store or during a chance occurrence with a friendly acquaintance, the topic de jour is about how awful the smoke settling in the valley is, how sad it is to know our forests are burning, and how everyone hopes it’s over soon.

Regardless of the season, this dialog is no different than our collective griping about the weather. Come winter time it shifts to how cold and gray it is. Come spring time it’s too rainy, or not rainy enough. Come summer it’s too hot. Come fire season it’s too smoky. And fall’s biggest detractor is that it has arrived too soon and isn’t summer.

This post isn’t my own gripe about other people griping, but instead is my way of trying to process this cultural phenomenon and shed light onto an opportunity in which to practice. Despite my propensity for writing – which I do A LOT of – in person, I gravitate towards the quieter side of the verbal scale. So, when people I meet proceed to talk about how awful the smoke is, my tendency is to simply smile and listen. But I do invest contemplative time in trying to fashion some kind of response that would be an authentic expression AND also not be dismissive of what someone is saying. Once in a while I manage to say something that I hope will serve to rally against the commonplace mentality of complaining about the weather, but mostly I have found little to offer in return when it comes to this dialog exchange.

I’ve written about this topic here on my blog a few times over the years. How we engage with the weather is a litmus test for how we engage with life. Our reactions to the weather are an indicator of how well we deal with uncertainty and change, how well we are able to go with the flow of what’s being presented in the here and now, and how skilled we are in the art of letting go. It’s worth our time and energy getting in touch with what our own relationship is to the weather, and paying close attention to what it is we say and how often we talk about it with others.

Our quality of life depends on what we do in the in-between-the-cracks moments – those instances we disregard or let fall to the wayside or way underestimate as being important. There is no such thing as an insignificant moment. Every weather-based conversation and simple exchange matter.

So, as always, the practice continues…