You're not supposed to talk about the weather. Or politics, or religion, but that's because politics and religion are too fraught, too potent for everyday use. The weather, on the other hand, is too mild: talking about the sun or the rain or the clouds is conversation's panacea, a sop with a pleasant aftertaste.
Lately, though, I've taken to dissecting those clouds, this sun, that barometric rise. I commiserate about cold, defend the color gray, bemoan the segue into sleet. I check the weather online two times a day, or three, or sixteen, tracking every distant disturbance of air.
It's gone beyond small talk. As well it should, for weather is not small. Not very many years ago it was life or death, riches or ruin. Plant before a rainstorm, fail to stockpile enough fuel or food to survive the cold, and there you were: toast. Only in the last hundred years has toast become food for a weak stomach, has weather become a smudge on the horizons of our lives.
Weather's not small, but we forget. We creep like ants along predetermined routes, crawl into our little cars to hide. Negative six degrees and snowy, yet we head to work anyway, waddling over the ice-covered parking lot until the muscles in our thighs cramp and we've forgotten what it's like to walk.
How's it going? we ask. How about this cold? More than a pleasantry but less than a question: just a a way to get our mouths around something bigger than our tongues.
Check out the sky.