On a grey and dreary day, nearly everyone is running a bit low. You can see it in people’s faces – they’d rather snuggle under a blanket with the cats up close and warm. Some of us, however, are even more sensitive to the weather than that. We are the human barometers.
It starts out as a sinus headache, but quickly spreads to the full frontal assault of a migraine headache. They don’t last long, but the pain is intense enough to ruin a whole day. When I get like this, I often hold my head in my hands and cover my eyes to block out light, which seems strange in a crowded room. But if I am among 6-8 people there is usually someone else who knows exactly what the problem is; they have it, too.
I’ve tried over the years to determine just what causes this, and the best I can tell you is that the attack comes from a rapid drop in pressure. I can sense about 0.08 inches of mercury change, but if it’s more than about 0.10 inches the pain is intense. This usually happens about 30 minutes before a very severe thunderstorm approaches, or about 8 miles out.
This sense is not limited to humans. Once, when I was living in Shoreview, I felt such a migraine coming on. I lay down for a moment as the world was getting darker and darker around me. That suited the moment as I lay nearly comatose from the pain. Then, just as it was starting to lift a bit, I heard quacking. It was a rolling, desperate quacking that crackled the moment apart like thunder. The ducks at the lake outside my little apartment were sounding the alarm. When I got up to look at what was happening, I could see a tornado off in the distance. The dark slash in the sky pulled up back into the clouds it was made of, and we were safe. But only the mallards and I knew that something like this was coming.
I’d like to be able to tell you that I can sense the absolute barometric pressure, meaning that I can predict rain anytime. I can’t. What I can say is that the worst storms of all leave a definite fingerprint on the atmosphere as the leading edge sucks everything into it. I rarely get a “false positive” on a storm even though the lack of a headache does not mean that the weather will be clear.
This is an inherited condition that I first heard of from my Mom. My youngest child has it, but my oldest does not. I find myself having to coach this a bit, hoping that even a little one can understand that this is a gift, not a curse. Since everyone feels the weight of our atmosphere to some extent, those of us who feel it strongly are a kind of shaman. We know, intensely, what everyone knows just enough that they can ignore.
It makes for good teaching moments because there is one lesson I want my kids to learn so deep in their blood that it is an instinct; Keep Your Eyes Open. That may sound hard to do in the middle of a migraine, but we all have many eyes. Each of our senses, even the ones we don’t fully understand, tell us something about the world. It may be a bit trying at times to have the weather knock us down for a moment, but if the information is good we have to make use of it. It’s better to know than to not know, after all. It’s our world whether we control it or not.
That’s what I like to make of this condition of mine. Around April it’s not exactly a fun thing to have, but it suits me. If nothing else, the time spent sitting down simply because there is an approaching hole in the atmosphere is time spent contemplating our beautiful planet. It makes me feel, appropriately, very small. Perspective is the greatest inherited condition of all.