Monday, June 11, 2007

Sense of place: Climate

Originally uploaded by Molly Wassenaar.
I grew up in a Northern California town where we had wet winters, hot dry summers, and mostly dependable weather. It wasn't quite mediterranean, like the San Francisco bay area. Winters were colder, we had snow now and then in the winter, sometimes deep enough to sled in, sometimes lasting a week or more. Summers were hot, with three-digit days unsurprising.

Last time I was there, it was 118F in town, so I took refuge at the lake, where it was only 115, and camped out that night with no tent, lying on top of my sleeping bag, and only a sheet over me all night, to keep mosquitos off.

In seventh grade, I moved to the San Francisco bay area. I remember very clearly waking up on my first school morning there, to walk the mile or so to school, and needing a sweater. It was grim out, and I hated it, and was immediately homesick. But like on most days, it cleared up by 10 or so, and was bright and not too warm after that.

It was springtime in the bay area, and cool, with a thick marine layer. These days, still living in the area (after forays into other parts of the state, and one other country), I often appreciate the fog in the morning, it can easily keep a summer day below 80F. From late July to early September, the sea warms up enough that we lose the layer, and it can get quite hot here.

Last week, I got back from my third visit to New England. The first time we were there, just after summer solstice, it was 100F and 95% humidity. Folks told me it was unseasonably warm. I got sick. It was horrible. I wasn't used to it. Other people there were used to it, and while not happy, managed. This last time, it was less hot, but warm enough, and I went hiking at Middlesex Fells Reservation. It was truly lovely, but the sweat never dried on my back. Stilll, I remember thinking, "Everything is green, and this is nice, but it's stickky. It's not my weather."

I'm so rooted in central California, now, this weather is my weather. I've always lived in in the SF Bay Area or north, within California. Though I've lived in a geographically broad range of places within California, they've still always been in the Mediterranean climate zone, and when I lived overseas, in Australia, I managed to end up on the edge of the tiny portion of Australia that has a Mediterranean climate.

But when I change climates -- on a small scale, from Shasta County to the bay area, or on a larger scale, from the Bay Area to Massachusetts, I am thrown for a loop. The biggest blow to my sense of place is usually how the are around me feels, compared to how I expect it to feel, how the weather behaves, whether I carry an umbrella.

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