Staying indoors as criminal act

In the Washington D.C. area, approximately two days of gorgeous spring and fall weather bookend a long, sultry summer. Winter is an endless slog of 38- to 42-degree days, with the occasional crippling two or three inches of snow thrown in for good measure. Every couple of years, a fabulously luxurious snow begins to fall, and it pours down for hours and hours, sometimes even days, and full-grown adults build snowmen taller than them and the pizza delivery drivers curse their luck. In the days before these storms, the weathermen forecast doom, and the newscasts show B-roll of panicked consumers stocking up on bread, milk and toilet paper.

In Iowa, I've seen three very clear seasons so far. I moved here in what was straightforward, muggy summer, and then, one day, the leaves began to turn and the breeze took on a chilly edge, and there was fall. Winter arrived at its appointed time, and it did not kid around. I’ll save my winter stories for another post or eight.

Then spring rolled into town. One morning I cleared frost off my car windshield before heading to my 6 a.m. Pilates class; the next morning, birds serenaded me all the way from the front door until I was behind the wheel. Crocuses and daffodils found their way up through the earth, and the tree in our front yard went from winter-stark to heavy with tulip-like buds.

It was no longer so bloody dark when I drove home from work. Steve and I spent nine days in Puerto Rico over his spring break, and when we left, I was driving home from work parallel to a thin ribbon of red light in the west. That’s what I saw, at least, when the weather wasn’t dreary and gray, which it seemed to be for endless days in February and March. But when we returned, just before we rounded the corner into April, I realized I was driving home squinting as the sun actively set to my right.

I suspect all this rebirth, this return to light, the turning-over of the earth in the fields and the blooming of the trees along our quiet street inspired me to want to plant things. I always appreciated good weather in D.C., but it seemed to come so quickly and give way, without protest, to that brutal, sticky summer heat.

I know we’ll get heat here—last summer, I sweat along with everyone else. In August, during my last visit out here before I moved, Steve and I sat out on the narrow front porch of BoJames, a burger and beer joint in town, when one of his classmates wandered by. She complained of being near death. “This much humidity so far from any body of water is simply unfair,” she moaned, resting her forearms on the patio railing and letting her upper body collapse between them.

But on Sunday morning, Steve and I were able to sit out on our front porch and drink coffee and talk for more than an hour. Yesterday at work, almost every co-worker I encountered had the pink cheeks and pale freckles indicating they’d been outside. I have always loved being out in the fresh air, but after my first Iowa winter, it almost feels criminal not to enjoy the good weather.

We’re a long way from summer yet. Like I said, Iowa spring is something to be savored, with its cool, crisp nights and its warm days. We’ve had some days that were unnaturally hot, and that led to unstable weather, including a tornado that effected a surgical strike through town, but there’s no sign of regular heat on the horizon. In fact, we laid down plastic last night over the newly-turned earth in our garden, just to hold the heat in case of sudden frost.

That’s OK with me. I’ll be ready for summer when it gets here, but in the meantime, I’m appreciating the change in weather more than I have in years.

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1 Response to “Staying indoors as criminal act”



  1. 1 The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on July 21, 2006 at 6:37 am

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