I’m glad our neighbors cut down their dead trees. One was perilously close to our house. The wind is whipping the branches around the rest of the trees and blowing the fall colors to the ground. It will take a few more of these windy days to knock all the color out of fall. We still have a little more time to go out and enjoy this season here in the Northwest. In other parts of the world people are seeing winter knocking with its suitcases at the door, looking like it will move in for a long spell.
Bill teases me about my love for weather. It’s one of the first sections I look in the newspaper every morning. (I showed him how to read the tide charts and now he checks that too.) I have always been fascinated by weather. As a child, books about extreme weather always caught my eye. Maybe it was because I was from LA and our weather was so boring.
The typhoons of Southeast Asia were exciting to experience. I was amazed when we landed in the middle of one in Hong Kong. Our plane shuttered and dipped with tall buildings on each side, but landed undamaged to the relief of all aboard. Once in Taiwan we decided to go to the movie theatre during a typhoon. The theatre was pretty empty. I guess most people found it safer to stay home rather than risk something flying from one of the tall buildings onto their heads. I see their point now in retrospect. During the big ones we stayed home and watched from our 4th story windows as the debris flew by and our building was buffeted by the winds.
I was not prepared for the harsh winters of Northwest China. How could I be, having only seen snow fall once in my life? Before moving there to start our English teaching jobs, we did some research and bought our winter gear through an LL Bean catalog. One thing we forgot to do was check the winter fashion info for our destination. So when we showed up in our Maine hunting boots that first winter we made quite the impression. You know the kind with the thick felt lining, rubber soles and leather sides. I was grateful that my feet were warm and dry, but I couldn’t walk down the street without all eyes (and there were a lot of them) focused on my feet. Most people never lifted their eyes to see the rest of me as they passed by in their sleek leather boots. For the women 3 inch heals was the norm. I finally could take it no longer and broke down and bought a pair of the high healed version of boots. There were two problems with this approach. 1.) I, at 5’ 8”, was already towering over most women and had never really learned to walk in high heels. 2.) Learning how to walk on ice was already tricky for me. As soon as we got out to Hong Kong for our winter break I ditched those boots and found some more stylish flat ones. Not an easy feat with my biggish feet for Hong Kong sizes.
Along with winter weather comes the challenge of keeping warm. Southeast China can get pretty chilly and damp for a few weeks in the winter. The places we lived never had any heating. So we quickly learned the art of layering and understood better the need for padded clothing. If all else failed we headed to bed under our thick cotton comforter. When we lived in the Northwest there was always a certain date that the central heating via steam radiators came on. That date more often than not was after the first snowfall. We usually had a couple of weeks on each end of the season that we were pretty miserable.
In Kazakhstan there were other problems of staying warm. In the early years during the coldest weeks the gas was low in the city. This meant very chilly conditions in our homes. Later, we moved to a home that was heated mainly by a wood stove. Simple enough except that dry seasoned wood was not always available or we just didn’t know where to find it. Following are a couple of poems that help capture my feelings during that period.
Entombed in winter
White, ice, cold
Slip sliding away
Crash, fall, trouble.
Let me stay home
By my fire.
For others joy
Ride, slide, ski.
I feel trapped
Waiting for spring thaw.
Wood is almost gone
It’s snowing outside
I’m hiding from my rascal cats
In my electric-space heater heated room.
© 2010 Julie Clark