corvi (corivax) wrote,

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As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend you skip this post

I went to training to become a National Weather Service-certified stormwatcher today (thank you, tidesong, for alerting me to the existence of Official Stormwatchers), and invited all the storm-loving locals I could think of to come with me. It was neat. Mostly sitting in a dark room watching videos of baseball-sized hail and crazy mudslides and tornados and learning how to identify and predict various aspects of them to call in a coherent report. (The documentation says, all in capital letters: DO NOT REPORT HAIL AS MARBLE-SIZED! MARBLES COME IN MANY DIFFERENT SIZES! Apparently this is a problem for them.)

My favorite weather formation is now the mesocyclone, which is a rotating cloudmass, indicative of a world-class thunderstorm forming. A giant silverdark swirl, like wool on a spindle or water moving over a rock, feeding raw power into a thunderstorm.

I am much looking forward to being able to say, "As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend walking in the rain," or, "As a certified stormwatcher, I recommend a mug of hot chocolate. With cinnamon."

Fundamentally, the seminar was about reading.

When you're learning how to read a book, these squiggles and lines and loops on a page become signposts along a winding road. They point to words. Words don't live on the page; they curl slumbering in the depths beneath it somewhere. Learning to read changes the shape of the world. You don't see the squiggles anymore. You see words.

There's an oft-cited study where psychologists were testing how well people could remember the positions of chess pieces on a chessboard. Unsurprisingly, it turns out people who know how to play chess are a lot better at remembering where the pieces are than people who have never played chess. They're reading the board, looking through that board to the meanings that curl in dark places underneath, threat and possibility and victory. If you put pieces down in some random configuration - three bishops on each side, no kings, etc - the chessplayers are suddenly as bad at remembering as the novices.

The thing that sings to me is this: if I look at clouds now, I'll see mesocyclones and wall clouds and rain feet, what was and what is to come. I won't see meaningless vague and puffy gray anymore. I can read the sky, a little, and it changes the shape of the universe, makes it aglow with meaning.

Reading is a magic, a strange and powerful one. It's one of the defining characteristics of being sentient, and one of the most important ones.

And this is what we should do: Read books. Read go boards and chessboards and checkerboards. Read blades of grass to see the movements of the wind and read the way a lover's hands curl around eachother to see the movements of a heart. Read the stars at dawn and the clouds at sunset. Read the way the rain falls in convection vortices and the way green creeps in the acidic soil under a cedar tree. Read the chords in music and the colors in an oilpainting and the architecture in a building. Read the warmth and heartbeat and stength in the hand that grasps yours, and read the stance of your fencing opponent. Learn to read everything you can, clouds and martial arts forms and languages and games and physics and constellations and chords and the tremors in a voice, and never stop doing it.

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