The Weather: San Francisco

Nothing is literally more interesting than the weather. How could it be otherwise? It thoroughly defines our immediate environment. To dismiss the weather as unimportant is to suggest that we live independently of our environs, that we are actors on a stage and the stage does not inflect us. Ah, but the weather inundates our experience, shapes it, moods it, defines it in so many ways.

People claim to have seasonal affective disorder. Of course they do. Only a) it's not a disorder; and b) we all have it.

The weather is a mood and not simply some numbers — temperature, humidity, wind — that tell us what to wear. Winds don't just blow warm and cold, wet and dry. They also blow anxious, calm, frenzy. Weather is the swirl of affect.

And San Francisco is deep in the swirl. This is a strange city with an incredibly intimate relationship not just to the sky but to the atmosphere in general. Montana, Kansas, Texas: they have Big Sky. San Francisco doesn't have big sky: it has Close Sky, sky that comes down to us, clouds that literally kiss us. We call it fog.

Ocean, bay, desert land, sky, wind: here they interact in endlessly shifting configurations that relentlessly modulate our days. We may not experience extremes of hot and cold but within our tightly stipulated range, we experience great tumult, enormous variation. And with this, an endlessly shifting affective resonance.

A few weeks ago, I'm driving through the city and experienced something that happens with some frequency in San Francisco: everything was nutty. Cars were doing strange things — stopping for no reason, drifting, turning suddenly. Pedestrians, too, were popping up at unexpected places in unexpected ways. I couldn't go one block with some wacky shit happening.

The next morning, I learned that the earthquake in Japan had happened and that the tsunami had hit the California coast. Of course, I said to myself, that's why everything was so wacky yesterday.

And just in case I didn't believe it, the next day found my boy and me at the park where we sat — randomly, whatever that means — to watch some amateur baseball game. We took seats next to one teams' bench — we where the only people in the stands — and I looked at a player's jersey: Tsunami, it read, in big bold letters.

The world is not a stage. It is an actor. And a pervasive, demanding one at that.


Linz said...

What you’re saying here makes me think of an inkblot traveling on a napkin. The world is woven of strands of fiber, and the introduction of affect in one place can bleed across the entire surface. In other words, everything is connected.

I was just reading an interview with Borges where he talks about this connection:

"In Old Norse...a battle is called a 'web of men.' That is strange, no? Because in a web you have a pattern, a weaving of men, un tejido. I suppose in a medieval battle you got a kind of web because of having the swords and spears on opposite sides and so on…The idea of a web made of living men, of living things, and still being a web, still being a pattern. It is a strange idea, no?"

This metaphor - connecting men and webs - is itself about the connection between things, about the way life is folded into a pattern. It’s a metaphor about the rhetoric of metaphors: they say that the world is connected. Disparate events can be part of the same pattern, and be affected by the same forces.

I just realized that I don’t entirely have a point, but if I can figure out how it all fits together, maybe I’ll have a new blog post.

Daniel Coffeen said...

As for the inkblot: yes, only the napkin is affective, too. There is no blank slate that receives affect....

As for metaphors: yes yes yes — that's what metaphor is: the transport between two different realms. That is its etymology and its behavior. This is what we do when we speak, write, especially when we write poetry: we are weaving the fabric of the world together into new weaves.