Tuesday, November 05, 2002

California: Weather-Free Zone

W. H. Auden, native of a mild and rainy island, once said that North America’s climate — too hot, too cold, too rainy, too dry — is so extreme that it clearly isn’t intended for human life. And California? Too temperate.

I don’t necessarily agree with his other observations, but I sometimes agree that California is too temperate. Many of my Eastern friends think I’m boasting of the perfect weather here. I don’t think so. The fact is, I have always loved weather, and here there isn’t any. Just a pleasant vacuity where weather ought to be, the meteorological equivalent of Muzak.

I miss the change of seasons. Spring doesn’t mean much when roses bloom in January. Winter is a joke when snow is a once-in-a-century miracle. Some trees are showing fall colors, but their radiance is lost in the general dazzle. And what is summer without a thunderstorm?

I swear that one reason Californians have earned their reputation for goofy good nature (what I used to call “being laid back to the point of imbecility”) is that they can count on months and months of sunshine. It’s true that dark weather encourages emotional gloom. I am not suggesting that we all become Scandinavians, with that culture’s bipolar oscillation between wintry Kierkegaardian despair and frenetic summertime exuberance. I would just like a taste sometimes of the kind of weather that commands attention, that reminds me of risk and danger, that suits another mood than perky cheer. Weather with an edge, weather with some passion.

I miss the slow buildup to a thunderstorm, the rising wind, blackening sky, the first shattering strokes of lightning, the onslaughts of rain, the sound and spectacle of great forces clashing, the still freshness afterward. I miss the occasional pensive grey day, what my mother always calls a good day to stay inside and sew. I miss variety. I miss appreciating the rare perfect days as the gift they are. I do try to keep enjoying the soft perfection of California weather, but people look at me as though I’m a lunatic when I say, “What a beautiful day.” Every day is equally beautiful here, thus equally bland and humdrum.

All this is in response to a completely outrageous headline in today’s San Jose Mercury News: “First storm in six months is expected Wednesday.”

The article continues that the storm “will end a long dry spell going back to May 21, when 0.10 inches of rain dropped into the San Jose Civic Center's rain gauge.”

I knew the weather was good when I moved here. But still. That’s outrageous.

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