Wherever one’s head is at the moment, there’s a hat that fits
The weather fascinates me, maybe because it’s one of those things people have absolutely no control over.
You can do all the planning in the world and have it all come to naught simply because of weather. I’ve been to outdoor weddings where everyone was in a panic because of storm clouds gathering on the horizon and missed many a fun winter event due to snow.
However, my feelings on the weather have evolved.
Now that I have a garden, I understand that bad weather is sometimes good.
Let me back up.
Last Saturday I was as irritated as I’ve ever been with the weather, because showers throughout the day forced me to cancel a hiking trip. I still managed to get in a long walk late in the afternoon, but it failed to satisfy my urge to stand on top of a mountain.
The next morning I got up and decided to spend a couple of hours working in my garden. It was hot and sunny, and I kept marveling about how dry the soil seemed, even though it had rained the day before and periodically throughout the week. I dragged the hose over and sprayed down my plot, but it seemed like more was needed. As I walked back to my apartment, I noticed that the sky was growing darker and that the wind was picking up.
“Good,” I said. “We could use the rain.”
My thought process amazed me. How quickly I’d switched from not wanting rain to wanting it! I described myself as wearing “different hats” to a friend. On Saturday, I’d been wearing my hiking hat, and the rain made me angry. But on Sunday I was wearing my gardening hat, and the rain made me happy. “Your hat metaphor is terrible,” my friend grumbled.
My friend’s criticism didn’t bother me in the slightest.
All week, I’ve been using the hat metaphor with abandon.
On Tuesday night, I decided to swing by the Schenectady Museum and check out the transit of Venus — the planet’s passage across the face of the sun. This astronomical event isn’t scheduled to take place again until 2117, and I didn’t want to miss out, especially after my memorable trip to the observatory at my college reunion, where I got to look at Saturn, Mars and the moon.
But I was worried about the weather.
Would showers and clouds ruin my one chance to see the transit of Venus? Suddenly, I was wearing a newfound astronomy hat. Shortly after 6 p.m., a member of the museum staff informed those of us milling around inside that the sun was out, providing an ideal opportunity for viewing the transit of Venus. Without hesitation, everyone rushed outside and lined up at one of the many telescopes on the lawn.
The transit of Venus was impressive — a small black dot moving slowly across a fiery yellow orb — but I didn’t want to spend my entire evening at the museum. I put on my bike-riding hat and rushed home, hoping to get in a good ride before dark. And I did. Before sunset, I managed to bike about 15 miles along the Hudson River and even caught a glimpse of the deer that live near the Corning Preserve.
One of the sadder aspects of growing up is being forced to specialize in certain activities, to prioritize based on time and talent.
When I was younger, I was involved in all sorts of things — drama, singing in a church choir, band, newspaper, soccer, basketball, even a season of softball and a couple of years playing in a handbell choir.
This level of activity isn’t sustainable, and eventually I found myself focusing on what I was good at and most interested in. My inability to make the basketball team in high school ended my basketball career after my sophomore year, and I lost interest in performing in plays when we moved to a new school. These days, I seldom play music (my clarinet sounds pretty horrific on those rare occasions when I pull it out) or sports, and the idea of singing fills me with dread.
But there is a part of me that misses filling up my schedule with a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs — I enjoyed doing a lot of different things and developing different skills. These days, I wear one or two hats, as opposed to a half dozen, and I sometimes feel as though different parts of myself have atrophied. Of course, life is always changing, and every day represents a chance to try something new.
This lesson popped into my head at my college reunion, when I described myself as an introverted misanthrope and one of my friends gave me a puzzled look.
“I don’t think of you that way all,” she said.
“That’s because you know me from college,” I explained. “I was friendly there.”
In other words: For four years, I put on a sociability hat, and then, sometime after I graduated, I stopped wearing it on a regular basis. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start wearing it more if I want. After all, I biked a lot when I was growing up, and then there was a long stretch of time when I didn’t bike at all, and now I bike fairly regularly. If I want to do something, I can usually find a way to do it.
I’m not sure what this weekend holds in store, but I’m fairly confident I’ll be wearing a few different hats — perhaps my hiking music-loving hats. And, if I’m feeling really energetic, perhaps my sociability hat.