Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I was thinking and it occurred to me that there are really just two reasons a person might be cold. One is because s/he isn't dressed appropriately, which accounts for why a person might say s/he was cold even though it's 60 degrees out. The other is because s/he is wearing every piece of clothing s/he owns and because the weather is SO brutal, s/he is still cold. Most of my life I have lived in places where, during the winter, if I'm cold it's because of the latter explanation. But, the only reason I have ever been cold since moving to California is because I wasn't dressed warmly enough. (You might be in California, but that doesn't mean it's warm enough to wear flip flops and a t-shirt with no coat, dummy!) I don't think it has yet been colder than about 38 degrees here and usually the low temperature is more like 40 something. The climate is SO different here than anywhere else I've ever lived that it has taken a long time to figure out *how* to dress appropriately. In all of the cities I have lived in before now -- Syracuse, Rochester, Boston, and Madison -- at this time of year it is bitterly cold. There are no leaves on any of the deciduous trees. There is probably some combination of snow and ice on the ground. You wouldn't go outdoors without a hat, gloves, a scarf, boots with good traction -- the whole works. You wouldn't think of it -- unless you were trying to make yourself miserable. It's different here. There are still colored leaves on the deciduous trees. Autumn has extended into winter. The leaves are still falling. And, there are still flowers! There are flowering bushes in abundance. Flowers! Outside! And, the streets are dry -- unless it just rained. It *has* started to rain more frequently. And, it *does* seem colder when it rains, but so far I haven't experienced any of the extreme windiness I'm used to in winter that makes the precipitation so nasty. I haven't been wearing a hat or gloves. I've been wearing a moderately warm coat outdoors. I have been wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks and shoes. No more flip flops. Layers are essential in this weather, because you never know when you might go outside and find that the sun is shining so brightly and warmly, you have to take your coat off. But, even in August, I found that even when it's warm in the sun, it's often quite cool in the shade. Layers are necessary all year round, it seems.

I have to say, this change in climate makes for a really different experience of the holiday season, too. Sure, there are shoppers running around, colored lights and decorations, company parties, etc., but there is something missing. Not just the snow, although snow is definitely part of the visual experience of the warm, fuzzy Christmas I grew up with. Strangely, I think there is something about just being cold that has always completed my winter holiday experience -- being so cold that I can't wait to get indoors and warm myself by the fire (or radiator, or hot bath). There is something special about getting indoors after you've struggled with an icy sidewalk or driven through a blizzard -- something about being with friends that is even more special because you're so relieved to be out of the storm. There is something special about drinking hot cocoa or mulled apple cider, not just because it's delicious and festive, but because it makes you warm. I'm sure this change is something I can get used to. There are lots of nice things about living in a more temperate climate. But, as far as the holidays are concerned, I'm glad we're going to Lake Tahoe for Christmas (and I'll be in Denver for New Year's). I hear it's really cold there -- and they have plenty of snow.


Steph said...

Oh, jealousy. I don't stop being cold at any point from mid-October to March. I'm really small with bad circulation and no inner furnace to speak of. I can't bring myself to turn up the heat higher than 67 out of guilt so I spend most of my work day in front of a space heater. In sweaters. With hot tea. Occasionally with fingerless gloves. And this is in Kansas, which really isn't so bad compared to those northern climates you're talking about.

Jake said...

Yay, Denver! Honestly, though, while it gets cold there, and it does snow, your description of the need for layers made me homesick for Colorado, since it can swing from 60-40 in a day. I still can't get used to how regular and consistent the weather is in Boston!! (If I hear one more New Englander say, "if you don't like the weather here, wait 15 minutes and it'll change", I might just do something rash. I went on a long bike ride once where I rode through hot sun, wind, rain, snow, hail, fog, and more hot sun, in one 6-hour stretch.)

Jake said...

Oh, that bike ride was in Colorado.... Just to be clear.