Yesterday in Southern Skye it was not a day to venture out, with squally showers, aggressive wind and sleet to contend with. What a difference a day can make…
I loved the quote as soon as I saw this posted on Facebook…’oh, the joys of living in Scotland.’ The funny thing is, I actually miss this.
Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye - where the mountains rise up to meet the clouds, time hangs on a sigh, and the sea is alight with rainbow fire.
(For photo credit, click on source link below.)
The weekend begins with rain. I heard it on the roof this morning and it compelled me to stay in bed just a bit longer. Later I’ll go out for a walk and the smells of the rainforest will be heady, filling me with their damp green scent. This will be a day to make soup, to write if I am disciplined or to read by the fire if not, for cups of strong tea in ceramic mugs and for cookies warm from the oven. What’s not to love about a rainy day?
(Apologies for lack of photo credit but none was available.)
I woke to the rain on the roof, quite loud since a burst pipe last winter necessitated a hatch being cut in the ceiling. The sound of the heavy rainfall, more than many other sounds, transports me back to Skye. The west coast of Scotland has some startlingly beautiful, clear days but oddly, it’s the rain one remembers. The first photo is taken in Plockton, known as the jewel of the Highlands and it is - with the warmer gulf stream, a palm tree lined street, rugged hills, groups of Scots pine and land sheltering water, Plockton sparkles with charm. (Photo source here.)
The funny thing about darker, rainy days is that you appreciate what light there is, so much more. Today, though the sky is dull, the colours around me are in sharp and beautiful contrast; the green of the evergreens, the soft orange, red and claret of the leaves turning, even the table lamps in the house are casting a pleasing warmth. This photo of the breaking dawn on the west coast of Scotland is a good example - less light but what a gorgeous show. (Photo source here, read what the photographer who took this has to say about light, it’s interesting.)
“The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?” (J.B. Priestley)
© S. Marian, Aug. 7, 2012
An extract from a piece titled, “It Influences Us, Weather - You Like It Or Not,” to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: a dialogue. If the weather is getting you down, you’re not alone. Read this piece to understand why.
(Sincere apologies to the tumblr blogger who created this gif for the lack of credit, the site where I found it did not provide credit.)
Where do you go when politics, religion, sex, money and the latest leadership candidate are all contentious topics? The weather. It’s possibly the only non threatening topic guaranteed to unite us. Those of you following the Olympics will be getting a glimpse of what unties the British people – constantly changing weather. You may now understand why it’s such a popular topic of conversation in the UK. No sooner have they observed the conditions, dressed and prepared for them, than it changes and all many times in the span of a day. Marcel Proust said, “A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.” What impact does different weather have on our world or on us personally?
Putting aside the stellar work of Professor Geert Hofstede (http://geert-hofstede.com/the-hofstede-centre.html) in identifying what determines cultural characteristics, I would assert that weather has a significant impact on national and regional characteristics, as well as on an individual basis too. This is supported by many studies but to site just one conducted by Howarth and Hoffman (1984), it was found that there was a correlation between mood and weather, particularly humidity. “Humidity, temperature and hours of sunshine had the greatest effect on mood. High levels of humidity lowered scores on concentration while increasing reports of sleepiness. Rising temperatures lowered anxiety and skepticism mood scores. Also, as the number of hours of sunshine increased, optimism scores also increased. In relation to depression and anxiety, weather did not appear to influence these states. One only has to study the incidence of SAD (Seasonally Affective Disorder) in the wintertime, to understand the impact that lack of light, less exercise and decreased time outdoors has on mood.” Too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect as Keller and his colleagues (2005), noticed - “hotter weather was associated with lower mood in the summer.” John Grohol further states in his piece titled, Weather Can Change Your Mood, “During heat waves there is an increase in violent behaviour and aggression, higher drug and alcohol abuse and depression tends to increase.”
Two things provoked this piece; the first is the weather I have been labouring under for the last two days and the second is a conversation. To begin with the second, I had a chat with an Italian today about the difference between people from the north of Italy compared to the south. He commented that people from the south were friendlier, more open, less driven and generally nicer to deal with. The people from the north in his opinion (he’s from the north) were harder edged, ambitious and more uptight. Before Italians start posting passionate denials disputing this, understand it’s just one opinion from one Italian about his race. Other countries have made similar comparisons within their borders.
Hofstede’s report gives us a framework for understanding this but again, prevailing weather conditions make an important contribution to disposition and mood. It’s not difficult to be upbeat and optimistic when you’re dealing with favourable conditions, enough sunshine to grow your crops, conduct your business, to send you serotonin sufficient to “get you up and out into the world.” Serotonin, is produced by the body in response to light, it also gives you confidence and self esteem.” By the time the day draws in, your body begins to convert serotonin into melatonin, which has a huge impact on your wellbeing. It’s like an off switch that triggers your body to go into recharge and repair mode. It also allows you to sleep.
Now to the other provocation for writing, the weather in my area recently. The temperature has been on the high side for my region, around 31°c and quite humid. Despite this, others seem to be coping better. Coming from Scotland, I’m not convinced I’ve adapted yet - what the Scottish would call having ‘thick blood.’ Whatever the reason, I have been floored by the heat and humidity, had difficulty thinking, writing and sleeping. As the barometric pressure increases, so does the pressure in my head. I come to feel as if my head is going to explode. The air cleared today, the pressure lowered with the temperature and bliss, pure bliss to be able to function again.
From meteorology and science to the realm of literature – weather and how it moves us, is just as relevant here. As well as affecting our mood, it is used as a device in writing for creating mood. In the “Pickwick Papers,” Charles Dickens used the weather to superb effect, “The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour.” I find it impossible to read that without feeling dispirited and that was clearly his intention. Mr. Dickens takes us from the dispirited to dark outburst with, “The clouds were flying fast, the wind was coming up in gusts, banging some neighbouring shutters that had broken loose, twirling the rusty chimney cowls and weathercocks, and rushing round and round a confined adjacent churchyard as if it had a mind to blow the dead citizens out of their graves. The low thunder, muttering in all quarters of the sky at once, seemed to threaten vengeance for this attempted desecration, and to mutter, “Let them rest! Let them rest!” (Little Dorrit). Not only does he set the scene with these passages and advance the plot but he also creates emotion. He doesn’t need to say, “He was sad,” or “he was worried and threatened,” he can let the weather do that for him.
In the world of literature and in reality, the weather can be transformative. Have you ever stepped outside the confines of your home and accompanying responsibility and gone for a walk on a nice day. It can completely alter your mood. Writers utilise this knowledge to move a character from one emotional place to another, or to act as a metaphor for change: “It was an ideal spring day, a light blue sky, flecked with little fleecy clouds drifting across from west to east. The sun was shining very brightly, and yet there was an exhilarating nip in the air, which set an edge to a man’s energy.” Arthur Conan Doyle makes you feel to be with this man in these conditions, you too would feel good, alive and ready to face what may come. J.B. Priestley comments that weather is transformative, literally changing the very world you live in, “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?” Ask any child if this is true and they would agree.
Back to the weather and most particularly in unpredictable Britain, it puts the accomplishments of the Olympians in a new light. It’s a massive achievement to qualify for the Olympics at all and then to win, combined with all manner of weather – they really deserve their accolades. Writing, as I have been in the heat and humidity, seems a paltry achievement by comparison. No one is likely to give me a medal; tonight I didn’t even get a cup of tea. That’s okay though, the cool fresh air coming in the window is reward enough for me.
John M Grohol, “Weather Can Change Your Mood,” World of Psychology - http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/11/09/weather-can-change-your-mood/
Howarth, E. & Hoffman, M.S. (1984). A multidimensional approach to the relationship between mood and weather. British Journal of Psychology, 75 (1), 15-23
Keller, Matthew C. (click on link for John Grohol for further attribution), A Warm Heart and a Clear Head: The Contingent Effects of Weather on Moon and Cognition. Psychological Science, 16 (9), 724-731
Dr. J Matsen, “Here Comes the Sun,” Truestar Health
© S. Marian, Aug. 7, 2012
“The temperature has been on the high side for my region, around 31°c and quite humid. Despite this, others seem to be coping better. Coming from Scotland, I’m not convinced I’ve adapted yet - what the Scottish would call having ‘thick blood.’ Whatever the reason, I have been floored by the heat and humidity, had difficulty thinking, writing and sleeping. The air cleared today, the pressure lowered with the temperature and bliss, pure bliss to be able to function again.”
© S. Marian, Aug. 7, 2012
An extract from a piece to be posted tomorrow titled, “It Influences Us, Weather - You Like It Or Not,” to be found on “A View From Outside the Box,” url: adialogue. If the weather’s been grinding you down, you’re not alone. Have a read and discover what the world of science has to say. Find out what place weather has in literature and why the British love to talk about it.
Here’s the other side of nature. You’re used to seeing beautiful soft and appealing photos of the northwest of Scotland from me, majestic mountains and serene scenes. Today you’re looking at Cluanie, a river angry and violent. In another photo it was in the process of taking out a centuries old stone bridge. This is also Scotland - wild, untameable and very powerful. Too much rain in too short a time and this is the result. Nature strikes its own balance and we can only shelter and watch.
(All credit to John Stoddart)