Today's 'Weather Report'

What do the 'Wizard of OZ,' the weather and today's awful self-interest politics have in common?

By Arthur H. Gunther III



Of late, nature has been as cranky, even downright mean, as a hen with stolen eggs, inflicting disastrous storms and fickle weather in most parts of the world. Attribute the bad mood to climate change or anything else, but the realization is there’s been no party time.

Now if you look in history, you’ll see this has happened before -- nothing especially cyclical, but terrible weather nonetheless. It’s almost as if the gods were angry, and they pulled our hair. More than a few cultures believed that and gave up sacrifice, human and otherwise.

Of course, I don’t mean to joke about storms that kill and injure, which destroy livelihoods, which are hell on earth. Yet their fact is as real as the old bromide --  that if you had to wait for your date to fix her hair and you were stuck shuffling your feet while her mother stared you down, you talked about the weather. I sure did, whether it was hot and sunny or icy and cold later.

I propose to mention weather like you note the state of politics, which is to say, what state are we in anyway? “Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore,” Dorothy says in the “OZ” spectacular, and while a tornado moves her out, it is really the imagination, wishes, aims, needs, desires and the great, unfulfilled, incomplete world that was both Depression-era Hollywood and L. Frank Baum’s turn-of-the-20th century Populist era. 

His novel for children was sort of an “American fairy tale” without European-style  scariness. That author Baum lived during the great Populist movement of people against the elite and that Hollywood was in its own era (and imagination) when it made the movie have led to political interpretations of “The Wizard of OZ.” Who knows? Maybe it’s like the weather, seemingly predictable, then not, cause straight from the heavens but effect from earthly misfits.

As a third grader in a fine, little school called South Main Street in Spring Valley, N.Y., I was privileged to hear, every afternoon for two weeks, passages from an original copy of “Oz” as beautifully read by teacher Miss Amy Rouy. I -- nor as I recall, any of my classmates -- did not find the story frightening, and we all seemed carried off to the Land of Enchantment. 

But for us in those days of 1950, tornadoes seemed distant to the Northeast, and we were just beginning to worry about a mushroom cloud called the Cold War H-Bomb. The afternoon’s reading (always a treat to be read to, no matter the age) left us with good feelings about the story’s central theme -- love, kindness and unselfishness.

That storms have since come into all our lives, some so very great that we cannot seem to define the why and wherefore of them, that storms today also mean politics, the fact that we are weathering any sort at least promises us that harm has not chased Baum’s penchant for reassuring children. That is the true, great magic of the Wizard, though he knew it not.

And that would be my weather report for today.

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William Demarest May 14, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Thanks for putting Mother Nature in perspective!
James F. Leiner May 15, 2012 at 12:42 AM
My mother also talked about the weather all the time...One of my favorite memories is sitting on the front porch of my grand parents home on Cedar Hill Ave enjoying a summer rain and often lightning storms. of course the thunder boomers where the dutch elves bowling up on South Mountain. I hiked those hills for decades and never for nary a hair of an elf.....
art gunther III May 15, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Jim, I wanted to say how much I and others I know enjoyed your fine recent piece about those boys (men) who left Front Street in Nyack to serve during World War II. So many of them. That story could be a movie.


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