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  • Writer's picturecherylmurfin

All About the Weather


Sometimes you really need to do that thing you balk at, that thing you convince yourself you’ll hate – like learn a new way of doing something you think you already know best how to to do, or take that first bite of snails in red wine sauce, or, as was the case for me today, take a long cold walk in the wind, rain, and muck.

It was dark and gray when I woke up in my tiny shoebox apartment. I could feel the damp chill even before I rolled out from under the covers. The patter of rain and the dense freeway sound that wind makes when moving across trees and over rooftops made me want to groan audibly.

Posie lifted one wary ear in the direction of those sounds and burrowed deeper under the covers. I saw a thought-bubble rise over her tiny mound at the foot of the bed: “If I just wrap myself snuggly enough in the quilt, maybe Cheryl will forget I’m here and not force me to go outside in THAT.”

Posie does not like the rain. It makes her most disagreeable.

I slapped at the feeling of “ugh” threatening to engulf me and then set out to drown it with my single blessed morning cup of coffee. After all, it rains a lot in Seattle during winter, but usually in fits and starts. Maybe the sun would break through. Maybe the birds would chirp. Maybe I would not have to pull out the anti-depression sun lamp to keep my serotonin levels at an even keel.

The weather app on my phone smacked down all that kind of wishful thinking. It predicted a 100 percent chance of rain all day long with no exceptions. That gray-colored “ugh” started up its siren song in my soul once more as I considered just staying in my flannel pajamas all day. I mean, who would know?

Thankfully, one of the benefits of living in a small apartment is that the only way to avoid insanity is to go outside – nasty weather be damned. If I don’t walk daily, I literally feel crazy. I feel like a caged animal throwing herself against iron bars. I am not kidding, not exaggerating.

So, I dragged poor indignant Posie on a quick potty stroll around the block and then let her burrow back into the bed. I put on my raingear, hopped in my car, and headed west across the city before I started to second guess what I’m sure I know about myself. That is, that there is no amount of cold, wet, wind, or fill-in-the-blank weather element that’s worse than feeling trapped.

Today Discovery Park park was buffeted by a lusty, gusty wind – so gusty that at times I felt it might lift my 115-pound frame off the ground and toss it around. I zipped my coat up to my neck and leaned in, feeling the tendrils of rushed air roam over my face, move up my nostrils, flutter my eyes. In a way, it felt like being showered in kisses. I admit I stopped several times and tilted my head into that stormy lover.

The park’s high bluff overlooked a very gray Puget Sound, and as I hiked from there down to the beach below, the trees rocked and creaked overhead and the path turned squishy and wet beneath my feet. The winds picked up yet more as I spilled out onto the beach at the west side of the park, and moments later a huge gale seemed to arrive from the depths of the Sound itself. It urged me closer to the sea.

And so I moved toward the waves, roiling white-capped and rough against the shore. With the water pressing on one side and the wind on the other, I closed my eyes to listen to the howl of nature all around me. It was a sound not unlike mourning; in it I heard grief and anger and frustration and yearning all mixed together and yet separate emotions at the same time.

I know I’ve felt this before, I know I’ve recognized it before, but still it felt like Grace descending when I understood that the elements surging around me were a pure reflection of the feelings that surged within me.

I haven’t been completely isolated in the past 10 months – I’ve seen family and friends and even traveled a bit while doing my best to adhere to the world’s new safe socialization rules.

But I have, most of the time, felt completely alone. I have felt considerable anger – at the virus, the president, white people in general, and most especially myself – for many many things, including how blind my whiteness has made me to true suffering in our country.

I’ve felt imprisoned by the shackles of COVID and by the dawning that my country isn’t the free and equal and self-less democracy I wish it were. I’ve spent hours wrestling with mortality, all the while angry that it's a losing battle. For all of us.

At the same time I’ve felt anxiety about being cooped up, about not having enough work, about my future survival, about the survival of my kids, I’ve also felt a sense that time is slipping away. These latter feelings are not unlike the emotional tossing in the sea of fear and regret that accompanied my cancer treatment five years ago. Then, like now, I couldn’t shake the fear that there is not enough time left to do the things I was put on earth to do or make the amends I need to make for what I have done that I should not have.

I have felt so so angry that so many other people, millions, have unnecessarily had to stand in front of these monsters of thought and die alone. I am exasperated that their deaths could have been prevented.

Soaking in the elements of myself played out in the storm, I found myself enveloped in incredible relief. A physical, visceral relief is what came with the wind and with that drawing of connection between myself and weather, rock, mud, and forest.

I hauled myself against the wind and off the beach and even as I did I gave in to all the feelings I’ve been carrying. Rather than back away, I leaned into the storm inside myself. As I did, as it all passed though, I felt release. Relief released. A smooth calm settled into my heart. The calm of connection, of being known by something outside of and far bigger than myself, of seeing a truth that’s been right in front of me for a long time: I am not alone. Ever.

It did not surprise me to find that on the other side of the jetty, where the galeforce was blocked completely by the park’s lighthouse and stone walls, the sea was a perfectly calm. The water here was still. Every now and then small fists of wind settled in to feather lightly across the water. Birds bathed near the rock shore. There was no howling; the wind was silent.

The mourning outside felt done.

And the one in me as well. Done.

I almost stayed inside today. Almost sat on my couch looking out at the rain and gray feeling sorry for myself. I almost said no when uncomfortable elements came knocking on my window this morning. I almost gave in to depression that comes from feeling trapped inside myself and which, had I given in to it, would have unraveled me completely today.

I am not sure if it is a growing self-awareness or dumb luck or the boost of that one cup of coffee that pushed me off the couch. But I’m glad I said yes to the invitation to get wet and cold and dirty. I am glad that there is a small pile of mud from my shoes still sitting by my door.

I’ve felt so disconnected during this year of isolation. I don’t know anybody who hasn’t felt that.

Today was a reminder that I am, we are, not. I am connected, not just to people and my dog, but to everything, every element around me. I am not alone. Neither are you.

I was only a little sad that Posie missed the walk today. But I get it. She’s a small dog, low to the ground. While the wind kissed my nostrils, most likely only mud would have gone up her nose.

I imagine she knows what’s best for her and when to say yes and no to the elements. Because whenI I came in dripping and sodden she was cheery and bright and she looked pretty darn happy dry nestled on her pillow on the couch.

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