For two days, dark clouds.
You could argue it’s a kind of allegory.
And why not?
We’ve all got dark clouds and unexpected shifts – things outside the norm – lingering just beyond what’s anticipated. Nature don’t give a fuck. It’ll throw you what it wants to throw you.
Ride the wave or sink.
There is no alternative.
* * *
And this is how it was.
For a full week, the best meteorologists had been warning: a storm unlike any Arizona had seen was brewing.
And they were right. Starting Wednesday night, moisture spinning up from the Gulf of California met with a cold air mass shooting down from the Pacific Northwest and created a 48-hour moisture plume that ran smack dab over the middle of the central Arizona deserts.
Lands that routinely hit 110 degrees in May and June experienced sub-freezing temperatures. Mountain ridges captured these moisture plumes, blended with cold air, and created monster snow dumps. Snowfall totals of 50, 60 even 70 inches on the highest peaks were recorded over the past week. Snowfall records for all of observed history in this part of the country were broken.
The National Weather Service, the official recorder of such things, couldn’t accurately account for what happened.
Snow gauges; the proper weather equipment; didn’t exist in some of the places snowfall fell.
There was no need to have it there. Why place a snow gauge where it never snows?
Everything became analog. Observations were human.
The desert being the desert, by the time the snow stopped, the melting began. Snow turned to rain. Thirty degrees turned to 50 degrees.
And by the time most of you read this, a blazing sun will be melting what’s left.
Sometimes the truth exists for a fleeting moment.
* * *
I’m burying the lead, by the way.
This post isn’t about weather; but it’d be perfectly fine if most of you assumed it was.
It’s about something more, about the way life knocks us off our feet, the way it throws the unexpected on us; the way we can choose to take something we’ve been given and choose to view it as A or B.
And even that’s a load of shit.
* * *
So let me take a step back; and then one step back beyond that.
At our core, we would think that one who sets out to write would have answers; some comprehensive point they’re trying to make.
That someone who would be appointed a leader knows how to lead.
That these leaders are sure where they’re going; and that they could get the people they’re charged with leading to this place.
But it’s rarely like this.
I’m in leadership role; but I don’t know where I’m going.
The road is muddy, broken, maybe busted apart by previous landslides or unexpected snow storms. Maybe I don’t know the destination at all.
* * *
Perhaps that’s not the truth either.
Maybe I know where I know where I want go; but maybe I don’t know the way.
Maybe the choices I’ve made – or the people in my path – have blocked the way permanently. Decisions have consequences. Some irreversible.
In that case, let me tell you a story.
But even this story is blind.
* * *
I had a path.
I swear I did.
A would lead to B. And B would lead to C. And maybe if I was lucky, C would lead to D.
But then life – the snowstorm in the desert happened – and nothing quite made sense.
The easy to comprehend became impossible to understand.
The simple became rife with anxiety.
The clear path forward became muddy.
Goals became obstacles.
And waking up became hard.
And the only way forward came by going backwards.
Almost to the starting line.
* * *
If that seems aloof, it’s intentional.
When you’re derailed, the only place you can go is back to square one.
You can fight it.
Or you can return voluntarily.
Gather your thoughts.
Reassess what matters.
And take another stab at it.
I’ve watched my children do this with ease.
Adults? We’re not so good at it.
It seems like failure.
* * *
When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I was a minority partner in a publishing company.
Our flagship publication was geared towards college students and was distributed in free racks all over the central core of the Phoenix metro.
The publication routinely featured attractive women on the front cover. We knew from significant quantitative data that women – over men – increased the rate of pick up; and thus increased the success of our advertisers.
I hated this truth. As did most of the staff.
We wanted the quality of the stories we wrote to drive pick-up rate; and we wanted to convey a proportional equality with our cover stories.
But business was business. And the numbers didn’t lie.
Every day, for 10 years in that job, I carried that burden. The cover stories and the cover images defining me and the company I helped to run.
I spent hours upon hours – up to 30 a week – contracting photographers and models to make sure that magazine got picked up.
I spent a lot of time, too, worrying about what was in between the cover photo and the high-priced back page ad, too.
Of course, in business, it wasn’t always the quality that mattered. It was the quantity.
And the revenue.
And the numbers we could show on paper.
* * *
Those numbers, a decade later, don’t matter now.
It was the stuff in the middle of the magazine that I’m most proud of.
The work done by still-in-school journalists telling the story of death row inmates, or C-grade bowling tournaments, or university police cover-ups, that bring the most pride.
Time has a way of making the things that seem important today seem frivolous tomorrow; and making the things you know are important, universally, remain important.
It’s like this storm; the one outside my door.
We’ll remember this snow on the desert floor, forever.
Until we die.
Our kids will talk about it.
And, maybe, their kids will talk about it, too – despite the fact that they never actually experienced it.
You can’t manufacture a story that matters.