Monday, July 23, 2012

Summertime Blues

When I was a kid, I remember a science teacher telling us that the Earth would gradually keep moving closer to the sun until it eventually burned up.

Are we there yet?

I must confess that summer is my least favorite of all the seasons, with fall and spring being my favorites. I have a sometimes-contentious relationship with the sun, both too much and too little of it.

In my early adult years I lived in San Francisco. There is a reason why San Francisco is called “America’s Favorite City.” It is absolutely beautiful, sometimes breathtakingly so. But the picturesque fog and I didn’t always live in joyous harmony. Day after day of gray skies dampened my mood. Summers there also aren’t like summers in most places. I can speak to that. I remember the tourists, in their shorts and T-shirts, freezing in San Francisco’s cool, frequently foggy and windy summer weather, looking for sweaters to buy in department stores. Remember the quote that's usually attributed to Mark Twain? "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco." Twain wasn't exaggerating.

I discovered when I moved to Southern California that I’m a natural sun person. Too many days of not soaking in those rays makes me gloomy. But even still, at this point in the summer, like many of us, I often grow heat-weary. When I happened to be feeling particularly grouchy about the summer weather, I used to say when I lived in Southern California that I lived in the part of town where we made heat for hell.

Then I moved to Arizona, and I discovered what it really takes to make heat for hell. Though I live well north of it, where we just make heat for Purgatory, the last time I had a speaking gig in Phoenix in late June, the temperature reached 115 degrees. Really? Sure, it’s a often dry heat, but so is an oven, and I don’t climb into mine. Even when Phoenix temps go down to a saner 100-107+ tell me that’s not a sign that my science teacher’s prediction was true, and the burning up process is well under way. But this year, record temperatures have been recorded over large parts of the country. It's getting harder to say where heat is actually made for hell.

But there is a phenomenon here in the Southwest that I’ve come to enjoy, and which has made me fonder of the hot, late summertime. That is the monsoon rainstorms that strike some days here, simply because of their sense-stirring might. Huge gray clouds build up to the heavens, while the air turns a distinctly yellow-green color and smells strongly of ions. When the storm hits, the raindrops can easily exceed an inch to an inch and-a-half in diameter and the swirling winds are fierce. Within moments, the temperature can drop 30 to 40 degrees, and even after the storm moves on, the temperatures rarely rise as high earlier, so it provides a break from the heat.

What’s odd is that the storms are so localized. Recently, we drove up to a high peak outside of town with a 360-degree view. No less than four or five localized storms in different directions draped the ground with wide sheaths of misty gray walking rain, while off to the west, the sun shone brightly through a stretch of far thinner cloud cover. Awesome!

Sometimes these storms are quite destructive — a section of my own roof had to be repaired after one last summer, as did quite a number of roofs in my neighborhood, and I sure don’t welcome that. But short of their creating havoc, it can be quite wonderful to watch them build.

There might not be any cure for the summertime blues, but sometimes there’s a respite. To my great surprise, since I’m not too keen on gray skies, I have come to embrace these wild, raging storms.

What do you like — or dislike — about your summer weather?

No comments:

Post a Comment