By Bill Hall
Scott Kelly, the American astronaut, just completed a year in the International Space Station and was happy to see his family again, of course, but that’s not all.
You might be surprised at what non-family aspect of his life he missed the most while living inside something resembling a high-tech trailer house racing around our planet.
It wasn’t something special like Disneyland, fried chicken or fudge ripple ice cream. It wasn’t a favorite fishing hole. It wasn’t even something so remarkable as variations in gravity.
By coincidence, our next-door neighbor, John Herrington, is an astronaut who married the lady next door. One recent Christmas, he fell off a ladder while hanging colored lights from the eaves of their house. As he came to his feet, bruised a bit but healthy, he mentioned the prevailing opinion in his line of work is that gravity sucks – especially when falling off a ladder.
So gravity, while useful in countless ways, is not what astronaut Scott Kelly felt he has missed most during his weightless year. Instead it was the snow and sleet and all those other wet and cold extremes.
Kelly’s regret is somewhat the opposite of yours and mine. We go out for a run or a walk in the wind and rain and, as the outdoors turn too cold or too hot, we go inside our own space capsules called houses.
Astronaut Kelly (and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko) were mostly locked inside the space station while peering out where a lack of weather can be lethal if you aren’t careful.
Weather down here on earth can be a two-edged sword. Just ask all those people each year who are flooded with too much rain, or watch their homes blow away and their crops ruined.
On the other hand, too much pleasure is boring to some of us. Over the years I have encountered people who lived in San Diego and loved the weather there at first. Eventually, they moved away because it is too pleasant – days and days of perfect weather – not too hot, not too cold. Some people go bonkers, complaining that they would like some variety in obnoxiously perfect weather.
That benign San Diego weather is hardest on people who weren’t born there. There comes a time when the transplants get homesick for snow and sleet, for brown autumns and chilly springs. The absence of changing seasons can make a person cry.
One time a few years ago, I encountered a newspaper editor who had recently been moved by her corporation from a rainy northeastern city to the dry western city of Boise, Idaho.
“How are you getting along with Boise,” I asked her.
“Not very well,” she said, “The sun is incessant and it’s ruining my house plants.”
Everybody needs a little rain now and then, and everybody can appreciate a snowman. But the sun is always welcome in my world.
Weather challenges us in the wildest ways, and when challenged, we grow stronger as a species. I read one time about small creatures under the microscope that were provided with a perfect life – no shortage of food and comfort, no enemies or harmful substances.
The story, true or not, was that all those tiny creatures died for lack of anything to test their mettle.
The weather can be our challenge. The weather gives us obstacles in life to push against and grow strong.
No wonder an astronaut, captured in a human space capsule, would love to run outside and play.
Hall is a Lewiston, Idaho writer.