Weather wimps of the world – it’s who we are

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

 

Low tide on a cloudy day at Pt. Defiance Photo by Morf Morford

Low tide on a cloudy day at Pt. Defiance
Photo by Morf Morford

 

“It’s too hot here. I’m ready to go home.” That’s what I said to my wife as I woke up in my half-sleepy state after yet another restless night’s sleep during the recent spate of record heat. There was only one problem — I was home.

Like most of us born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I feel a bit stressed and disoriented if I don’t see rain for a week or so. Or if the temperatures venture above 80 for more than a day or two.

We’ve all heard the term “fair-weather friend,” but here in the Northwest, we could call ourselves “cool-weather friends.” I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I feel better, think better and certainly sleep better in cool weather.

Yes, I know about air conditioning (and I use it in my car), but at home I don’t like the constant whir of the machine and the clammy sensation on my skin. I don’t like the mechanical, processed feel of the air that AC gives me. And I especially don’t like needing to use a machine and electricity just to breathe.

I never would have thought of it before, but I love the (literally) free and (usually) abundant cool, fresh air of the Pacific Northwest.

The summer of 2016 seemed to go on forever. The summer of 2017 seems to go on even longer. And hotter. And drier. With fires, actual or potential, almost everywhere. And even fires off in the distance, in this case British Columbia, send their smoke and haze our way.

Besides the abrupt difference in the weather, even our defining views of Mt. Rainier have been taken from us. And without our views of mountains and water, how are we different from any other place?

Have you noticed how a temperature under 70 seems cold now? Even 82 seems cool to me. And just a few months ago 65 seemed warm.

In my car recently, a local radio host was talking about a (slight) possibility of rain. She said that many of us “had forgotten that rain was a thing.”

Even when we got rain in the spring, it was almost always that pitiful misty, drizzly baby-droplet near-fog that annoys more than it nourishes. People in the Midwest know  real rain. We know mist and drizzle.

We, the people born, or absorbed into the Pacific Northwest, are weather-wimps. If it gets too cold (like barely under freezing) or too hot (like barely over 80) we feel lost and out of place.

In 2016, I told my wife that I felt like we had moved to San Diego – or that San Diego had moved to us. In August of 2017, especially thanks to the British Columbia haze, I felt like we had moved to Los Angeles or that Los Angeles had moved to us – especially when our beloved Mt. Rainier was hidden by an ever-present red-orange haze.

Several years ago some of my wife’s relatives from Dallas, Texas were visiting us over the Fourth of July. As we were heading out the door to watch the fireworks, I asked if they wanted to borrow a jacket or sweater since I knew they were not accustomed to our cool summer evenings.

“No thanks,” one of them replied, “We love the weather here. It’s like air conditioning we don’t have to pay for.”

Photo by Morf Morford

Photo by Morf Morford

I never would have thought of it that way before. I just take fresh air for granted. In fact maybe I take all of the most important things in my life for granted: family, friends, health and even hot water.

But in an odd way, I’m glad I take these things for granted. Fresh air, like friendship, cannot be bought or sold, but it can be lost, and it does need to be protected.

Nothing is inevitable about fresh air, and nothing can take its place. And like friendship, it is rarely appreciated until it is lost.

Fresh air, friendships and family are the ultimate luxuries we almost never think about. We assume that they will always be there. There’s something wonderful (and probably naive) about that level of trust.

We somehow believe we will always have those relationships. We take as a base assumption that things will never change. But they always do.

Logically I know that cool weather will return after a hot spell, and I know that I too will almost certainly eventually curse the arrival of what seems like an eternal drizzle.

But I also know that, like many other Pacific Northwest natives (and a few transplants), when the rain and cool weather comes back, it will be my own personal “welcome home.”

 

 

Fires in the West

If you are planning on travelling anywhere across our western states, the Western Governors’ Association has a website (http://westgov.org/explore/wildfires) that tracks wildfires as they impact  several states.

You can sign up for free email updates and newsletters here:

http://westgov.org/explore/air-quality.

This region covers all of the states and territories west of the Mississippi River – including Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa. A full listing is available here:

http://westgov.org/our-governors/,

And if you want to plan any hikes across these western states, take a look at this comprehensive map:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/49.11/infographic-recreation-a-net-work-of-trails-that-spans-the-west?utm_source=wcn1&utm_medium=email.