Here in southern California, the weather has been stuck in Santa Ana wind conditions for weeks–hot, sunny, and dry. It’s the middle of January, and we are all walking around in T-shirts, sweating through mid-80s temperatures, and accidentally shocking ourselves on every metal surface (and person) we come into contact with. I realize complaining about warm temperatures in the middle of winter is a bit sketchy. After all, there are probably more than a few people buried in snow right now who would be more than happy to come hit me with their shovels. This is assuming they could actually drive to the airport on their icy roads and fly out here through all those storms, although I suspect once they got off the plane, they’d be so dazzled by the sunlight and warmth, they’d drop their shovels and go order a frappucino at Starbucks instead.
So I’m not complaining, but I must confess to a tiny bit of longing whenever I hear about a big storm and people being snowed in. I know this is strange, so as I was putting on my summer clothes this morning, I tried to pinpoint what it is that could possibly be bad (aside from drought and fires) about constantly warm and sunny weather, and I remembered something from my sophomore year of college in Massachusetts. One weekend in December, a huge storm rolled in and dropped so much snow that all modes of transportation and roads into and out of Boston shut down. It was a Saturday evening, and no one could go anywhere. Having grown up a few blocks away from Disneyland, I had never experienced a situation where I couldn’t go somewhere because of weather. [While there are plenty of people who act like they can’t drive in rain, no one is ever actually unable to go somewhere here because of it]. Being restricted by weather was such a foreign concept to me, that my friends had to repeat several times to me that yes, we had to cancel our plans. And no, there was no way we could leave the dorm. “This is New England, dummy,” is probably what they were all thinking.
After that initial shock and disappointment, I was faced (along with everyone else) with a huge block of time and literally no place to go, and what resulted was the equivalent of the biggest slumber party ever. Everyone put on their sweats and pajamas and crowded into the common rooms, throwing whatever snacks they had into a giant collective pile, watched TV, made up relay races in the hallways, etc. Like children, who (let’s face it) have very limited options and freedom, I discovered that restriction can be fun. That it can force you to live in the moment and just enjoy yourself. With the snow falling steadily outside, our dorm and our forced time inside it felt cozy and special, and I felt a rare sense of solidarity with a group of people whom I would normally rush past in the stairwell on my way to class. We were all experiencing the exact same circumstances of weather and a complete lack of control over it. And it was really nice.
Here in sunny California, we have no such weather limits. We can go anywhere anytime and do anything. On the one hand, this is wonderful. On the other, this can be overwhelming and exhausting. There is no natural rhythm, no ebb and flow, directed by nature or the seasons. We have no weather restrictions and thus no reason to ever stop or even slow down. It feels ridiculous to stay inside all day reading a book and sipping hot chocolate when it’s sunny outside. So we all stay busy running around.
Perhaps my longing for inclement weather is just a sign that I am a shut-in deep down in my heart, but I think it’s more than that. I think constant sunshine and monotonously mild weather feels somehow artificial and disconnected. That it offers a false sense of constant control and propels us into constant action. Call me crazy (though please don’t hit me with your shovel) but I think it would be good for us all to be snowed in once in a while and have nowhere to go and nothing to do but stay put and discover how much we enjoy it. To discover that the world won’t end if we sit it out a day or two.