Relief is in sight! After weeks of 100+ temperatures, the last few days have been a welcome chill-out. It’s funny how relative comfort can be. Yesterday and today were still hot (temps reached 99 degrees), but the mornings and evenings were tolerable. I felt a cool breeze and walked my dog just before sundown, which I haven’t been able to do since early June. When I got home, I checked the temperature–it was 93 degrees! Having a cloud or two in the sky and the sun low on the horizon really makes a difference.
The morning, I stepped outside and considered going back in for a long-sleeved shirt. In all fairness, I wanted to change not because I was cold, but because I felt that for the first time in months I could wear long sleeves without feeling incredibly uncomfortable. Once again, I checked the temperature–83 degrees. I was enjoying what I believed was cool weather, and it was still above 80 degrees!
To explain my perspective, let me tell you about one warm summer day last year, when I was living near the top of the California border on the coast. The temperature hit 72 degrees just 3 times that summer. On those days, locals were shedding clothing and complaining about the heat. Prior to that, I lived in Denver during the summer, where it was clear, dry, sunny and often in the 90s. And the summer before that was spent in cold Boston, where summer got hot only occasionally but was humid. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, with its warm summer and occasional heat wave, and I’ve lived in Florida, with its heat and oppressive humidity (air so thick you can slice it). So I suppose my body is so confused about weather that it doesn’t know what to think about each extreme I’ve experienced.
Nevertheless, after a year in the cool, temperate, wet conditions among the coastal redwoods, I expected to be completely miserable in the desert. I thought I’d experience mild dehydration, as I did when I first moved to Denver (the altitude adjustment probably made things worse). But thanks to air conditioning (set at 83 during the day and 78 at night), it wasn’t so bad. 118 degrees is HOT, and hot wind offers no relief. I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever truly be ‘used to.’ But I soldiered through it and kept my cool. I learned to save outdoor activities for after sunset or early morning. I bought some light-colored clothing instead of wearing my usual black. I drank a lot of water.
After 3 months of paying close attention to the heat and respecting it, I’m rewarded with lovely days. I doubt that the days would be considered so lovely had I not lived through the unrelenting heat of a desert summer. Because of the heat, I can now step outside when it’s 90 degrees and think, “Oh, what nice weather–let’s go outside!” Last year, in Crescent City, I’d have retreated back into my home for relief from such conditions.
The weather will only get better. The days will get cooler, but not much cooler. We’ll have warm, sunny days and cool nights, the kind of weather that has made this area a destination for vacationers and snowbirds (the human kind, that is). Friends will envy us as we sit by the pool while they shovel snow. And if I want a taste of winter, I can drive just 30 minutes up to Mount San Jacinto (I can see the light of the tram from my house) for cross-country skiing.
To be honest, I miss winter. Dorchester’s cold, wet winds were miserable, but Denver winters were terrific. Because I was car-free and living in an apartment, I didn’t have to shovel snow or drive in it. I could afford winter boots, a coat, and knit accessories, so leaving the house wasn’t so harsh. I’d play in the snow, take the bus where I needed to go, or use my unattractive-but-incredibly-warm army-navy store books as my transportation. Then I’d come home, change into flannel pajamas, make some hot cocoa (or Serbian tea if it was really cold–it’s a mix of caramelized sugar and slivovitz), and feel grateful that I had a warm home. Colorado snow was the powdery kind that I didn’t know actually existed until I lived there. It wasn’t the slick, chill-you-to-the-bone, slushy snow I grew up with in the Mid-Atlantic states.
But you won’t hear me complaining this winter as I walk my dog in a skirt, sandals, and a light jacket. It’s our reward for facing the brutal summer, and it’s a great excuse to have friends visit from colder climes.