Warm Thoughts

A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.

~ Marcel Proust ~

Despite the cool temperature (68°F), when I walk outside the day feels warm and oppressive to me. I suppose that is because the air is dead still. Even the slightest breeze would transform the morning’s weather into a delightful experience. Unfortunately, not a single leaf is stirring as I stare into this day’s dim morning light. The peak temperature today is forecast to be 95°F; unpleasant, but tolerable in comparison to just a few degrees warmer. The temperature here is actually two degrees cooler than Green Lake, Wisconsin. I suspect Green Lake feels cooler, though. And today’s expected high in Green Lake, 84°F, will be significantly more pleasant that ours. I mention Green Lake only because I crave a climate better suited to human habitation than the one facing us here of late. Today’s high in Green Lake is a bit higher than normal, but close. High temperatures in Hot Springs Village, though, regularly soar through the “normal” highs experienced in Green Lake. And we have chiggers here; the bane of my existence. Green Lake, though, has its own insect demons. No matter where you go, you face challenges that diminish what could be an idyllic experience. Where is the “ideal” place? Where is the climate (weather) delightful, the people welcoming, friendly, and wonderful, and the cost of living low enough that a family of four earning barely above the poverty-level could live comfortably? No, really. Where?


I encountered good advice when reading about what various people have said about the weather:

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~ Anthony J. D’Angelo ~

Good advice is readily available. Good advice that’s easy to follow is more difficult to find. And it’s even more difficult to find good advice that accounts for one’s unique circumstances and also is easy to follow. Well-intentioned advice can therefore be maddening; as if the advisor assumes the situation facing the recipient of advice is identical to that of the advisor. Enough about that. The best advice is advice that works. It’s best, in my view, to take what works and discard the rest.


For years, I’ve heard the aphorism/assertion that one should “eat to live, not live to eat.” And in some ways, that advice is absolutely correct—food is, at its most fundamental, nothing but sustenance. But the aphorism fails to recognize the intensely powerful cultural messages inherent in food and its preparation. The foods we eat and the way we prepare them for consumption say a great deal about who we are. They can convey our values and our dreams. And they can tell our stories as well as anything can. Dismissing the almost mystical qualities food and its preparation can have is equivalent to writing off the unique cultural ceremonies associated with childbirth or marriage or death or a dozen other important transitions and transformations every culture experiences and acknowledges. We might as well say “childbirth is just a means of  renewing the labor force” or “marriage is simply the articulation of an agreement between a monogamous couple” or “death is simply an opportunity to thin the human herd.” An article I read recently highlights the importance food played and plays in various indigenous cultures. In Cherokee culture, according to the author, “…strawberry becomes more than just a berry. That ear of corn is so much more than ‘just an ear of corn.’ It is an ancestor, it is our mother; a reminder of who we are, what we’ve been through, and why we must continue to survive. Every meal has the potential to be a small ceremony, a direct link between our ancestors before us and the future of our people.” I would argue that the importance attached to food in our North American culture is similar. The foods we choose say a great deal about the extent to which we value (or don’t value) diversity, adventure, risk, and dozens of other factors that foods help define or articulate. Another quote from the article speaks to the importance of food as more than mere sustenance: “Certain aromas and flavors make an imprint in our minds and have the powerful ability to return us to a particular place, person or experience much more intensely than a visual or auditory reminder.

Eat to live. Of course. But also, live to eat the fruits of one’s culture and feed one’s dreams.


I find attractive people who think, deeply, and talk about what they think.  PBS frequently puts such people in front of the camera; that’s one of the reasons I tend to watch PBS when I have access to “over the air” television. Soon, I will subscribe to YouTube TV so I can get access, again, to those people who think and talk about their thoughts. But I get access to similar people right here in Central Arkansas. I suspect similar people exist all over. It’s just a matter of finding them and establishing dialogue.


Off I go into the warming day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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