Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: weather

Leaving on a jet plane

I used to get butterflies at the thought of climbing into a pressurized metal tube and being blasted through the skies at 700 kph at an altitude of 12 km. Those butterflies didn’t show up last weekend as I flew to Montréal and back. Maybe I’m beginning to enjoy air travel. Four hours on a jet plane is much more relaxing than three days of driving.

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The four of us on the French editing committee decided that we might get more done by spending two days together than we do in months of three hour Saturday night conference calls. Since the other three are members of the Roxton Falls congregation in Québec and I am the outlier, way out here in Saskatchewan, it was more economical for me to fly out there.

Thus I boarded a WestJet plane to Montréal on Thursday and Ronald, Philippe, Hugues and I spent the next two days editing a book that has recently been translated from English. Even considering the amount of time we spent hashing over plans for the future of our work, we got enough done that it appears that even when the cost of my ticket is included the amount of work done per hour is no more costly than when we do it by conference call. This trip worked out so well that we are talking about doing it again some time, if our individual schedules can be aligned. Ronald and I are semi-retired and more flexible but Philippe and Hugues have to find a time that does not conflict with their employment.

I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Québec. I have corresponded with Hugues by email, talked with him on the phone, but hadn’t seen him since he was nine years old. He is 24 now and it was good to see and work with him face to face. It was good to see Philippe again, he has married since I saw him three years ago and has a five-month-old son.

It was good to be in a place where the lawns are green, the trees tall, and the crops flourishing. (It has been a dry year here at home; I mowed the lawn once in each of the last three months. The grass is still more or less green and the crop yields only a little under the average, but it hasn’t been a year of abundance.)

I worshipped with the brothers and sisters in Roxton Falls on Sunday morning. I know most of them, some of them for many years, but some I met for the first time. That is a good thing, the congregation is growing.

Monday morning when I awoke it was 22° and humid. It was 30° by dinner time and then it began to pour rain. When I got into Saskatoon in the evening, it was 12° and still dry and dusty. But all the family was there to meet me and welcome me home.

False alarm?

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The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consultafft, at Bergen, Norway.

Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far north as 81 degrees and 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 metres showed the gulf stream still very warm. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared.

Very few seals and no whtefish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north, are being encounterred in the old seal fishing grounds.

-The Washington Post, November 2, 1922

Yes dear reader, that date is correct. This is a report of conditions in the eastern Arctic 96 years ago. The warming spell began in 1918 and continued for some years before returning to normal, whatever normal is. Haven’t climatic conditions always been abnormal? Normal is an average, not an enduring condition.

Winter’s adventure lost

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Seventy years ago, when our family wanted to go somewhere in winter we used a cutter much like the one illustrated.  We dressed very warmly, heated a stone or two in the oven, placed them on the floor of the cutter and draped horsehide robes over our laps and feet. Nowadays, I push a button to start the car before we go out to the garage, get in the car, push the buttons to heat the car seats and the steering wheel, and we’re on our way without really feeling how cold it is.

Seventy years ago there was no equipment for keeping driveways and roads open when the snowdrifts got deep. Nowadays, we expect driveways, roads, streets and sidewalks to be as clear in winter as in summer.

Seventy years ago we got up to an icy cold house, got the wood fire going in the kitchen stove and dressed around the warmth of that stove. We shovelled coal into the big old furnace in the basement and the heat would gradually rise up to warm the rest of the house. Nowadays the thermostat automatically turns the heat up when it’s time for us to get out of bed and turns it down again when it is bedtime.

Seventy years ago we wore long underwear and heavy socks in winter. To go outside we put on a parka with a hood to pull up over the toque on our head, put insulated boots on our feet, a scarf around our neck and two layers of mitts on our hands. Nowadays, we put on a coat, and sometimes gloves, and walk out to the car that is warming up already.

Seventy years ago I enjoyed winter. Nowadays, not so much. What happened?

Moving on, or pressing on

I really thought that spring would be here in just a day or two. The sun shone warmly on Saturday, the few patches of snow left were becoming smaller and smaller, we heard of birds coming back to a place just a few hours south of us.

Alas, it was but a dream. We awoke Sunday to a thick covering of fresh snow and rapidly cooling temperatures. Today the wind is blowing fiercely, cleaning the snow from open places and packing it into firm drifts in other places. The forecast doesn’t offer any hope of warmer weather until the 21st when spring officially begins.

No wonder the Romans named this month after Mars, their god of war. Many of the worst blizzards I have experienced arrived without warning during this month.

Wouldn’t it be better to live in a part of the world that never has winter? That sounds like a good idea on days like today. But – I have visited Arkansas and Mississippi at the end of March, when the weather was beautiful and I don’t know how I could survive a summer in those places. Besides, winter provides us with an all natural, ecologically safe barrier to things like fire ants, brown recluse spiders, Burmese pythons and other such creatures. Tornado season here is much shorter and less destructive.

I could go on, but you get the picture. I am accustomed to the hazards of living in this climate and know how to cope with the unpleasant aspects of it. If I moved somewhere else to avoid those issues, would I know how to cope with unfamiliar and unexpected aspects of the new locale?

A Saskatchewan politician visiting in British Columbia once said “A lot of Saskatchewan people move to B.C. because of the climate. Most of them move back because of the weather.” My father-in-law was one. He got so depressed by week after week of clouds, rain, and no sunshine in B.C. that he came back to Saskatchewan.

I think that applies to other aspects of our life. Someone grows frustrated in his job, his marriage, his church, the place he lives, and thinks a change will make things better. (I used the masculine pronouns because that is what I am and what I am most familiar with, not to imply that persons on the feminine side may not have the same temptations.) Most often the result is not what was anticipated.

Often a person will explain the change in one of these relationships by his need to get away from persons who are causing him trouble. Oddly enough, the same kind of persons, causing the same problems, are usually found in the next job, church, town, or marriage. And the next one after that.

If we take an honest look at ourselves, we are apt to find we have a full time job looking after the troubles caused by our own attitudes and actions. If we occupy ourselves with that, we will usually be quite content to stay where we are.

Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to move on, other than discontent with the people we have to do with. My wife and I tried out a number of churches years ago. We met a lot of fine people, but not the spiritual fellowship that we longed for. We have belonged to the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite for 37 years now. That doesn’t mean we have found nicer people, or better people, it just means that we are content that we are where God wants us to be.

Here in the Swanson congregation we have been trying for over a year to decide what to do about our aging church building. Such a situation provides endless possibilities for conflict. But it also creates possibilities for confession and apology when attitudes and words have been uncharitable. It feels like this process is drawing us closer together.

Reflections on turning 75

I remember the exact moment when I realized I was edging into the senior ranks. It was in 1992 and I was explaining to a younger friend how things had been when I was a boy. All of a sudden there was a little voice in my head saying, “Wait a minute! What’s going on here? It used to be that only old people talked like that.”

Twenty-five years have gone by since then; there’s no use trying to deny it any longer — I am officially an old codger. Today I am 75. And I am not 75 years young — I am not going to play that game. According to Moses, “ The days of our years are threescore years and ten.” By that reckoning I am five years past my best before date.

I have accumulated a ton of stories and anecdotes and some of them are even interesting to my grandchildren. My hope is that they will remember some of those stories in later years and realize that there are life lessons to be learned from the experiences told by the older folks. Lessons like the following:

The good old days weren’t always that great.
• Does anyone today remember tuberculosis and polio? There were epidemics of those diseases, and many others, when I was young.
• Does anyone remember dust storms that reduced visibility to zero and seeped into the best sealed houses? When I was a boy, most farmers had one piece of tillage equipment, a one-way disc harrow. They used it for seeding and for summerfallowing. The soil dried to a powder that would travel with any breeze. Today’s tillage equipment and farming methods conserve soil moisture and nutrients, making possible crop yields that were unthinkable years ago.
• Volunteer fire departments in small towns did their best, but they were untrained and under equipped. A grocery store in our town caught fire, someone rang the bell on the town hall and soon the volunteers were on the scene with the town’s fire equipment. In their rush to fight the blaze, they got the fire hoses tangled up. By the time they got them untangled it was too late.

New doesn’t always mean better
• Teachers are better trained, schools are bigger and better equipped, the curriculum is constantly being upgraded. Illiteracy rates have exploded, store clerks haven’t a clue how to make change if the computerized till breaks down, and people don’t know what country Ottawa is in.
• Thalidomide was used to treat morning sickness in pregnant women. Thousands of babies were born with missing or malformed arms and legs. Thousands more did not survive. Seldane was a marvellous new non-drowsy antihistamine. It caused me to have heart palpitations, a few people died — it is no longer available. My wife was prescribed Vioxx to treat her arthritis. She had heart palpitations while taking the drug; it also is no longer available.
• Time was when most people went to church on Sunday. The Word of God was read, moral principles and respect for others were taught. Of course there were a lot of half-hearted Christians and outright hypocrites in the churches. But has abandoning the churches made our world a better place?

Weather changes
• There is no such thing as normal weather, at least not where I live. When I was five there was a blizzard that closed roads for days and almost buried a passenger train — the town people carried food out to the train until it could be dug out. In the early fifties southern Saskatchewan had summer temperatures up to 105° F and winter temperatures down to -50° F . I don’t believe we have ever experienced those extremes in following years.
• Saskatchewan is more familiar with drought, but in the past five or six years we have had a series of summers with much higher than average rainfall.
• Forty years ago there was a suspicion that the Soviets were using nuclear tests to manipulate our weather and cause unusual storms. There were serious scientific attempts to explain how this could be done. Years of living here have convinced me that every year brings something we haven’t seen before and yet it is all part of the normal weather cycle. There is no need to look for a human cause.

There were frequent nuclear bomb tests in the late fifties when I was in high school. The media kept us informed when the cloud of radioactive dust would pass over our area. One morning Jack Dosko came to school and reported: “ The nuclear fallout passed right above us in the night and this morning I saw little pock marks all over the windshield of Charles Kennedy’s pickup. I wonder what else we will find.” Sixty years have passed and I still see windshields like that. I think it has something to do with our gravel roads.

Let’s not get too excited when we hear scare stories. This too shall pass.

Tips for newcomers to Canada – No. 1

Listen carefully when Canadians talk about the weather and you will discover there is a protocol that we all follow. For instance, here where I live, we just had an early snowstorm. When we get together with neighbours, the first thing one does is to complain about the weather: “It’s not fit for man nor beast out there;” “Quel temps de chien!”

The proper response is to agree how bad it is and give an example, perhaps how they barely made it to town in the deep snow on the road. Everybody takes his or her turn, adding details of how awful the weather is.

Then, somebody will say “Do you remember the blizzard of ‘98? Now that was a storm!” Then we all start to talk about how we’ve experienced weather that was a lot worse than what we have today.

Do you see what’s happening? We love to complain about how hard we have it living in this harsh climate, but then we flip it around and boast about how tough we are and we can handle it. The same protocol is followed when talking about mosquitos or grasshoppers in summer, or any other event in our immediate environment.

If you are a newcomer to Canada, listen until you get a feel for the drift of conversation, chip in with a personal experience if you wish. Be careful, though! This is not the time to tell us about floods, earthquakes and hurricanes in your home country. It’s not that we don’t care, but the flow of conversation will just wash over such thoughts as if they hadn’t been uttered.

Let us enjoy our little pity party / boasting session. It’s part of who we are. If you can learn to just go with the flow, nod at the right moments and add a word or two when appropriate, we’ll begin to feel like you’re one of us. Eventually, someone will ask you what things were like where you came from. Then you will have our full attention.

My day so far

9:00    check weather – forecast of 10 -15 cm snow, winds 40 gusting to 60 km/h
9:30    wife leaves for city just as snow begins to fall
9:35    start work – day’s plan is to catch up on filing
9:45    cat #3 wants out – open door, watch as he assesses the situation and turns around, close door
9:50    back to work
10:00    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
10:05    back to work
10:10    check weather again
10:15    pet cat #3 who has jumped up on my lap, then wandered over desk
10:20    back to work
10:30    pet cat#3 who is bugging me
10:35    back to work
10:45    comb cat #1, the big fluffy one
10:50    wash hands, open bag of chips, try to go back to work
10:55    give kitty treats to cat #3 who thinks every rustle of a bag means treats for him
11:00    back to work
11:10    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
11:15    back to work
11:30    check weather and roads, not good
11:35    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
11:40    back to work
11:55    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
12:00    give kitty treats to cats #1 & 3
12:05    back to work
12:15    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
12:20    back to work
12:30    wife calls, leaving city for home
12:35    make sandwich and eat it
12:45    check weather and roads again, getting worse
12:50    back to work
12:55    pet cat #3 who is bugging me
1:00     back to work
1:15     clean snow off steps and walk
1:20    back to work
1:30    wife is home
1:35    all 3 cats are sleeping peacefully and I can go back to work

The first day of winter

Today is the winter solstice, the day when winter officially begins.  In real life, we’ve had a month of winter here already, with far too many days when the temperature went down to -30°  Celsius at night and only went up by 5 or 10 degrees in the daytime.

Our two youngest cats insist on going out whenever they see the sun shining brightly outside.  Pookie, the youngest, soon comes in and seems thankful for a warm home.  Angus stays out longer but doesn’t venture off the back step into the snow.  When he comes in, he begins to wail in an accusing tone: “Who stole my summer?  What did you guys do with the green grass, the birds and all the other living things?”

Panda, the oldest, remains curled up in a chair.  Elle a déjà vu neiger.  This is French for she has seen it snow before, which is the French equivalent of she wasn’t born yesterday.

I was born in winter time, which means I am now entering my 72nd winter.  I have seen all kinds and it seems like lately we are getting back to the kind of long winters I knew as a boy.

But there are still “experts” telling us that the world is getting warmer and we need to take drastic measures to avoid an apocalypse.  My experience, and the reading of history, convinces me that there is no such thing as normal weather.  What we call normal is only the average of the extremes.

It seems foolish to take a few years weather data and extrapolate  a long term trend from it, especially when more recent data does not support the original predictions.  I’m afraid the main expertise of the “experts” is in sowing panic.

I’m with Panda, there’s no point getting excited about the weather.  But maybe I’m a little like Angus, too — it does make a good topic of conversation.

 

The pride of man

When I was a teenager, scientists were predicting that a new ice age was somewhere just over the horizon.  Around the same time (these were the cold war days) the media was publishing speculations that severe weather conditions were the result of secret Russian experiments at weather control.  The U.S. military was spending a lot of money to research the possibility of climatological warfare.  That probably made it easier for the “experts” to believe that the Russians were already a step ahead.

In more recent years, there has been a lot of scary talk about “man-made climate change”.  The evidence for that is no more realistic than the “evidence” of Russian climate control experiments. In fact, scientists are now going back to saying that we are entering a cycle of reduced sun spot activity that will lead to a 200 to 250-year period of cooler temperatures: a mini ice age.  I believe this is where I came in.

But aren’t severe storms, floods and earthquakes becoming more frequent?  Didn’t the Canadian government issue a news release some years ago showing conclusive proof of this?  Well no, it didn’t.  The department of the Canadian government named in this bulletin did not exist.  The data was equally bogus.

Major destructive earthquakes, storms and floods have been happening for centuries.  Three things have changed that make it seem worse: 1) increasing population and rapidly growing urban agglomerations mean a greater chance of large numbers of people being affected by these events; 2) urban development, road network development and agricultural development have altered natural drainage patterns, increasing the odds of catastrophic flooding; 3) increased communication and  news media make us aware of every disaster that happens anywhere in the world.  This, along with an ignorance of history, combines to create the impression that things are rapidly getting worse.

The reality is that the natural forces at work which affect our weather are hundreds of times more powerful than anything man can do.  It is the pride of man that makes him believe that he should be able to control his environment.

I believe that God has made this world in such a way that we will be subject to the occasional shaking of the solid ground beneath our feet, rising waters that scrub away all traces of human activity, and winds that toss man-made structures around like matchsticks.  These are reminders that we are not in control.  Those who put their trust in man will continually be catastrophically disappointed.

“Oh God, the pride of man, broken in the dust again.”*

*From Pride of Man, written by Hamilton Camp, as sung by Gordon Lightfoot.

Maybe snow isn’t so bad, after all

Where I live we suffered through a long winter and a spring that progressed at a barely discernible pace.   The weather always gives us something to talk about here in Saskatchewan, mostly in a worried or complaining tone, but summer did eventually show up, just as it always has.

Now we are in those glorious days where the sunshine never seems to end.  The sun rises at 5 AM and sets at 9 PM.   The birds start singing at 4 and don’t stop until 10.  And we still have a month to go until the longest day.

Meanwhile, we hear that Gander, Newfoundland, at the far east end of Canada, had a freak snowstorm Monday, dumping 60 cm of heavy white stuff.  For those who don’t speak metric, that is a whole two feet.  Those poor people!

Then we heard of the tornado in Oklahoma – homes, schools, a hospital reduced to rubble, many lives lost.  That puts a different light on our little woes.  No lives were lost in Gander, all the buildings are still standing.  The snow will soon be only a memory and life will go on as usual.

The worst tornado in Saskatchewan history, the worst in all of Canada, happened in 1912 in Regina.  The funnel cloud went through downtown and a large residential area, causing immense amounts of damage and taking 28 lives.  We have never had anything like it in the 100 years that followed.  Last year we had 33 tornadoes in our province, a record.  Most of them were small and occurred in places where they did no property damage.  There have been no lives lost in Saskatchewan due to tornadoes for many years.

I suppose that comes from living in a more northern climate, where the heat does not build up to the intensity it does in places like Oklahoma.  Maybe snow isn’t so bad after all.

I think we had better stop complaining about the weather we have here and start praying for all those in Oklahoma, and elsewhere, who have lost homes and loved ones.  May God grant a special grace through the coming days.

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