It reminded me of a nightmare. The box, containing a book, was soaked through. A sudden thunderstorm had come before we knew the box was even there on the porch and memories of several boxes of rain-ruined books came back uninvited. Water and books just don’t mix. This particular book, I knew, was Peter Thuesen’s Tornado God, which I had ordered back in December and which has just been released. The irony wasn’t lost on me. My own second book, Weathering the Psalms, was a rather inelegant treatment on a similar topic and I’ll discuss Thuesen’s book in further detail here once I’ve read it. The point is that no matter how arrogant we become as a species the weather just remains beyond our control. The rainbow at the end of this small storm was that although the packaging was soaked, I found the box before the book itself had time to get wet.
My research, ever since my first book, has largely been about making connections. The weather is so quotidian, so common, that we discuss it without trepidation in casual conversation. It is, however, one of the most dangerous things on our planet. Severe storms kill both directly and indirectly. Cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes can do so on a massive scale. So can their dramatic opposite, drought. Snow and melting ice caps also threaten life, as do floating chunks of ice in chilly oceans. It’s no wonder that the weather has been associated with gods from the earliest times. Even today literalists will say God is in the sky although meteorologists and astronomers can find no pearly gates when they look up. We just can’t shake the idea that weather is some kind of reflection of divine moodiness.
As weather becomes more and more extreme—it’s already a system that we’ve tipped seriously off balance—I suspect more and more people will start to assign it some kind of divine agency. This June we’ve already gone from shivering mornings with frost on the roof to nights when sleep is impossible because it’s so warm and humid, all within a matter of a couple of days. And this isn’t that unusual. Wait’l the gods really get angry. Weather is closely related to the water cycle, of course. We can learn about such things from books. We can’t take them out during a storm, however, and homeownership is all about keeping water out, or only in prescribed locations indoors. When the delivery driver leaves a box on your porch, however, it remains within reach of the storm gods.