I have long been fascinated by the way weather affects people. I guess I first noticed it when we moved to Iowa in 1975 and I experienced the changes in my own mind and body. I had never lived in a cold/snow climate before as an adult and I was totally unprepared.
In California we didn’t give much thought to “winter”. We didn’t have a lot of preparation rituals. We didn’t have to do much planning. Grab the coats out of the spare closet and wash a few sweatshirts and wait for the temperature to drop a few degrees. But more important- the weather seldom kept us from our activities. We didn’t often change our plans because of the weather. My only prior experiences with that had been once when the valley got about ½” of snow and school was let out so everyone could play in it, and once here when we got snowed in at Mama’s and the school bus couldn’t get to us. But for the most part kids don’t think about the weather unless it prevents them from playing outside.
When we moved to Iowa the whole world revolved around weather. The first month (August) we were there it rained nearly every other day. We were living in our converted van with three children so that was an experience worth another post! Everyone in Iowa seemed concerned about how the weather would affect the crops and the pigs and the river and the roads. As the year progressed I learned about storm windows and insulation and weather stripping and batteries and boots and gloves and coats and caps and layering and snow shovels… Who knew a car battery could freeze? Who knew I could spend twenty minutes dressing to go to the post office, two blocks away, and get back to the house exhausted? Who knew our rented meat locker would be warmer than the outside temperature? And I learned to religiously watch the weather report. I couldn’t plan a day ahead without knowing how much snow we would get. In a cold climate you can’t just say, “Next Wednesday I’ll go shopping.” Maybe you will and maybe you won’t.
I noticed, too, that people in Iowa made preparations for the “worst case scenario”. Gary’s cousins had three refrigerators, a generator, and extras of everything. They reminded me of my grandmother; she always bought extra food because of her experiences in the Great Depression. Gary’s cousins stocked up on everything because one year they were snowed in for three weeks. Think about that for a minute!
I guess what affected me the most about Iowa were the weeks and weeks of being indoors with small children. I just couldn’t cope with that. I was moody. I was cold. I was cranky. I was cold. I was unhappy. We returned to California in April.
We like to complain about the weather in Oklahoma because it is erratic. One year we might have a freeze in November and the next year we might be mowing our lawn in December. We seldom get much snow- maybe an inch or two for a day or two. We hold our breath in the spring waiting for that last vicious ice storm to end the cycle. And the wind comes sweeping down the plain whenever and wherever it chooses, sometimes leaving devastation in its wake. Yesterday Gary wore a t-shirt and mowed the lawn. My children at school wore flip-flops and played on the playground. Next week we may be bundled up in our coats.
My daughter in Vermont knows what is in store for her- days and weeks and months of snow and cold. I’ve teased her before about Vermont only having only two seasons- snow and mud. Which brings me back to my original thought about the weather- it affects our mood and our actions. Katrina recently bought a lamp that counteracts the “winter blues” some people experience from a lack of sunlight. The light we get in the winter months is not only lower in intensity than summer light, but we also spend far more time indoors so we get less of it. That leads some people to feel tired and depressed for months on end.
Winter weather also affects how we eat. We start craving carbohydrates and comfort food when the north wind blows. Bread and pie and stew and chili get added to our weekly menus. We eat more and exercise less.
Some people have far less energy in the winter. It starts getting dark at about 6pm and I’m ready to snuggle up on the couch and call it a day.
If you really start thinking about it the weather even affects what people drive. You won’t see many convertibles in Iowa or Vermont unless they are “second” vehicles.
It is supposed to be 80 degrees on Saturday! That is about as erratic as it gets for November, although I’m sure we aren’t anywhere near a “record”. I thought our rain total for October- 11+ inches- would break a record, but it wasn’t even close to the 22” Caddo got in 1981.
If it is sunny and warm in your part of the world today, have a little sympathy and say a little prayer for those who are already in the throes of winter. They need us to help them through the long dark days ahead.
BTW- Gary took the pretty fall leaf photos!