When I moved to Oklahoma almost 14 years ago from Ohio, one of the things noticed and first enjoyed was the amount of days that were sunny. Of course, there are tornadoes, but mostly in other parts of the state and not here in Tulsa. My first summer included discovery of regular temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I learned there is usually less than a dozen days such days each year. I was consoled though by being able to get rid of my almost new snow blower before moving. In Tulsa they convinced me I would never need it. Yea, right!
A realization within a few years of relocating was letting go of the snow blower was a mistake. Four to eight inches of snow multiple times a year became common by my third winter on the plains. Then there was the ice storm in 2007 that paralyzed the city as most people lost electric service. Schools were closed and many businesses could not open. Where I lived electricity was out for five days. For many others it was much longer.
Early this year so many 2011 winter records were set it is difficult to keep track of them all. Here’s a sample:
* -12F in Tulsa (a first time below zero in 15 years)
* -26F in Bartlesville (45 miles north)
* -31F in Nowata (50 miles northwest)
* Record snowfall for one day (14 inches)
* Record snowfall for one month (23 inches)
* Record snowfall for winter season (26.6 inches)
* All Oklahoma counties declared a disaster
OK. We made it through the winter with a bit of complaining and wishing for summer weather. For people who live where it snows a lot each winter like Boston or Denver or where it gets really cold such as North Dakota or Minnesota, we probably appear to be wimps. The difference is such winter weather is expected and normal there. Here that is not so. We have very limited snow removal equipment, homes are no insulated for below zero temperatures and in general we don’t know how to deal with serious winter weather. A foot of snow in Tulsa brings the city to a screaming halt for days!
Winter passed and spring arrived and set new records for rainfall. May contained hellish tornadoes for nearby cities a hundred miles away in Joplin and Oklahoma City.
On June 28th, seven days after summer began,Tulsa set a record temperature of 106F and that was just the beginning:
Summer of 2011 Tulsa has been the 4th hottest city in America (behind Lubbock, Oklahoma City and Raleigh).
* 40 days over 100F degrees, so far (average is 11.4 days)
* Record high temperature of 115F degrees in Tulsa
* Average Tulsa high in July, 2011 = 107F (average is 94F)
* Severe drought
* 74 of 77 counties receive disaster declaration
One of the jokes here about the summer weather is God sent it because we complained so much about the bad winter. I assure you there were days in the last few months when we wished for a record snow fall or a record low to revisit.
One may wonder, what do these weather stats have to do with gratitude. There is something about being shaken out of my comfort zone that causes me more awareness of being alive and what is going on around me. During those times I become more highly cognizant of what I have to be thankful for. The extreme weather has been a catalyst for much gratefulness this year.
During the winter I am thankful my home was warm and cozy as was my work. I am grateful to have plenty of clothes that kept me warm when I had to be out in the cold and snow. Through all the bad weather I remained safe, as did those I care about. In general the season passed without incident and was only an inconvenience for me. Now it remains only as some remarkable weather I will talk about for years.
As for the summer, a close friend lost an aunt in the Joplin tornado which is an abrupt reminder of how fragile life is. I am grateful to be alive to write here today. I am thankful where I live and work is well air conditioned, as is my car. I have a more than ample supply of cool summer clothing. The grass and landscaping at my home will grow back given time. And so on my gratefulness goes….
Over time as I have made self-inquiry of what I am grateful for a daily practice, what I find to be thankful for increases steadily. As corny as it sounds, I am even learning to be grateful for the difficulty and challenge that comes my way. If not so at the moment during it, certainly afterward in reflection, gratefulness always comes.
To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action. Nothing that is done for you is a matter of course. Everything originates in a will for the good, which is directed at you. Train yourself never to put off the word or action for the expression of gratitude. Albert Schweitzer