Every time I think I’ve seen it all as a bridgetender, something new and surprising happens. The other day, a boat passed under my bridge, and on the bow there was a woman in a hot pink, shiny catsuit, wearing a powder blue motorcycle helmet, complete with visor. I wish I had had time to whip out my camera, but I was too busy standing there, slack-jawed.
I’ve also seen my fair share of nudity and inappropriate acts, and believe me, most of them I wish I could wash out of my brain with bleach. It seems as though the level of one’s exhibitionism is directly proportionate to one’s lack of classic beauty. I would really rather not see your thick carpet of back hair, ma’am, thankyouverymuch.
And then there are the strange things that have floated by my tower: Houses. Lengths of bridge. Airplanes. Submarine periscopes. UFOs (unidentified floating objects). I once opened for a yacht being used by Sir Paul McCartney when he did the halftime show at the super bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. (I didn’t catch a glimpse of him, though.)
Pedestrians can be quite entertaining, too. They often like to sing. And while they tackle it with enthusiasm, as a general rule they shouldn’t try out for American Idol.
Or they dance. We get a lot of dancers. One guy walked down the sidewalk dribbling an imaginary basketball. Another preached a full sermon to the geese on the canal.
People have gotten into fist fights while crossing my bridge. I’ve seen more than one marriage proposal. A sad number walk across, shouting and gesticulating when no one else is there.
I’ve also seen eagles and falcons and ospreys and alligators and nutria and harbor seals and dolphins, to name but a few of the fascinating creatures who share the planet with us. I’ve also seen more lightning strikes and rainbows and sunrises and sunsets than I can count.
I’ve seen enough bizarre traffic accidents to make me wonder if anyone puts any thought into vehicular safety anymore. I’ve also heard every obscenity known to man, and have had a wide variety of objects thrown at me. I’ve also had government snipers on my bridge when presidential nominees were making speeches nearby.
I really do have the most interesting job in the world. I’d like to say I’ve seen it all, but somehow I suspect that I haven’t. So watch this space!
I’m looking forward to a rare day of sunshine here in the Pacific Northwest, and the temperature is expected to rise to a delightful 65 degrees. Spring! Happy dance!
Meanwhile, a dear friend in Kansas had to hunker down the other day in anticipation of 2 to 4 inches of snow. In April. This is not normal. The world has gone mad.
It used to be that the weather was considered to be the safest of all possible topics. We are all told to avoid politics and religion over Thanksgiving dinner, but the weather… we could all agree on that, couldn’t we?
Not anymore. The weather has become political. At a time when California is burning to the ground, islands are sinking beneath the ocean waves, there is severe flooding, drought, dust storms engulfing entire cities, super storms of all kinds, and unprecedented ice cap melting, we are expected to avoid the meteorological elephant in the room. Even governmental websites are deleting any references to global climate change.
I never thought I’d see the day when liberals would be considered the most conservative people on earth, but we are the ones that are wanting to take precautions to safeguard the planet. Even if you don’t believe in the overwhelming science of climate change, even if you refuse to look at the evidence before your very eyes, how can you justify not wanting to take steps, just in case? If this really does turn out to be our last chance to save ourselves, don’t you want to be aboard that ark?
What is wrong with reducing our dependence on fossil fuels? Why not recycle? Would it kill you to plant a tree? Is it really so hard to be a little bit smarter about your water usage? Why is expecting our corporations not to pour their toxic waste into our rivers and streams so controversial?
Seriously. Explain it to me. Because I don’t get it.
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When I lived in Florida, I used to take sunshine for granted. As a matter of fact, I kind of looked upon it as a creator of sweat, sunburn and humidity, and avoided it whenever possible. Mine was a closed-in, air-conditioned existence.
Not so in Washington State. Here, I glory in the sunshine whenever it’s available. (I haven’t gone completely native. I still tend to get hindered by the rain, but I go outdoors every sunny chance I get.) About half the year, I even eat dinner on my back porch.
Recently it actually got up to 70 degrees for a whole day, and I had the opportunity to go hiking with a friend, and afterward we just sat on a lakeside park bench and soaked up the sun. It was glorious. It was transforming. It was the perfect way to spend the day. Bliss. Simple. Free. It still makes me smile, just thinking about it.
Don’t you just love it when you feel glad to be alive? The sun’s rays and a friend with a sunny disposition. What gifts.
Come on, Spring! Hit me with all the goodness! I can take it!
Moving to the Seattle area has been quite the education in more ways than one. For instance, I lived in Florida for so many (too many) decades that I assumed that weather worked the same way everywhere. Not that everyone had the pleasure of the unbearable heat and oppressive humidity that we experienced there 11 months a year. No. What I mean is, in Florida, I could look out the window, see what the weather was like, and pretty much bank on the fact that everyone within a hundred-mile radius was experiencing that same exact weather. I thought that was normal, you know?
Another thing I grew to assume in Florida was that the weather was predictable. (Granted, I left there before global warming kicked in with a vengeance. Maybe that has changed.) For the bulk of the year, I used to be able to count on what was referred to as PC-CHAT (Partly Cloudy, CHance of Afternoon Thunderstorms). In fact, in Central Florida you could practically set your watch by it. You would get a torrential downpour every day at 3 p.m.
Then I moved to the Seattle area. And boy, did I ever get schooled. I had to add the word “microclimate” to my vocabulary list. I had never even heard that word before moving here. It’s definitely a thing. You can literally drive 2 miles down the road and experience completely different weather. Two neighborhoods, just 5 miles apart, can have an average difference of seven inches of rain per year. The little valley that I live in, I’m told, almost never sees snow. But if you climb up the slope on either side of us, you can be hit with a snowstorm that requires the roads to be plowed.
I can sometimes experience a 10 degree temperature difference between work and home. (It’s very weird to think that when I go to work, my dog and I are experiencing different weather. He refuses to talk about it.)
And predictability? Forget it. Just this year, city government officials were expecting a storm with such high winds that they actually activated the Emergency Operations Center, and many city employees worked through the night, expecting disaster. There was the usual panic as residents rushed out to buy last minute supplies and batten down the hatches. But the storm took a sharp turn and missed us entirely. And just the other day it snowed. That wasn’t even in the forecast. It took everyone by surprise.
The meteorologists around here certainly have their work cut out for them. Why is that? Well, there are a number of factors that come into play around here that cause us to be in a climactic washing machine of sorts. The first is that we are nestled between two north/south mountain ranges—the Olympics and the Cascades. These ranges are the cause of another new vocabulary term for me: “rain shadow”. As the weather travels eastward, the mountains rob the atmosphere of a lot of the moisture, so people living just to the east of the mountains experience a lot less rain. And those to the west have the pleasure of seeing the clouds stall right above them as they hit the mountains.
And north of Seattle you tend to get a light, ever-present drizzle, whereas south of Seattle you may not see rain as often, but when you do, it comes down a lot harder. And the closer you are to the water, the less rain you tend to see. Go figure. It’s like crossing the border into another country or something.
Another factor, of course, is elevation. There are a lot of hills and valleys in this area. The higher up you are, the more apt you will be to be snowed upon. That makes sense. But since the elevation shifts so abruptly here, the weather is notably different from one neighborhood to the next. And then being right on Puget Sound adds another level of complexity that I have yet to fathom.
So, yeah, there’s a learning curve to living out here. And now that I’ve bought a house in a completely different microclimate, I’m back to square one. But I think I’m up for the challenge.
When I lived in Florida, I avoided nature at all costs. For me it was a place of spiders and snakes and mosquitoes and lightning strikes and fire ants and tornadoes and floods and, increasingly, forest fires. You couldn’t even jump into a pile of leaves for the scorpions. (How does one get through childhood without jumping into at least one leaf pile?)
Status quo was heat and humidity and sweat and sunburns. Mostly, I hid indoors, and went into full-blown panic if my air conditioning broke down. In fact, life was hopping from one air-conditioned oasis to the next. All my windows were painted shut. Having that contentious relationship with the great outdoors, I kind of had the mindset that I was surviving in spite of, rather than because of, nature.
It’s amazing how quickly my attitude changed when I moved to the Pacific Northwest. Here, I don’t even own an air conditioner. During the warmer months, my windows practically stay open. I have a new-found love for fresh air. During those same months, I have dinner on my back porch every evening. I’ve yet to encounter a mosquito, let alone anything else that might bite me. I don’t even own any bug spray.
Here, I get outdoors every chance I get. I’m starting to look at the rainy, grey winter months (which I confess I’ll never get used to), as the penance I have to pay for the exquisite gifts of spring, summer, and fall. This is the first time I’ve experienced seasons in 40 years. They’re magical.
Perhaps nature is more than one entity. I like its personality much better here than I did in Florida. Here, we’re friends, not enemies. And I didn’t realize how much my life lacked for not having that friendship until it finally came along.
The following sentence makes me feel really old: Things were a whole lot simpler when I was a child. I remember running home to proudly tell my mother that I now knew the names of all the clouds. Cirrus. Cumulus. Stratus. Nimbus. And the various combinations thereof, such as cumulostratus and cirronimbus. I took a great deal of comfort from the fact that now I’d be able to look skyward and always have a name for what I saw.
Those days are gone. According to this article on the Nat Geo site, for the first time in 30 years, the International Cloud Atlas has named 11 new cloud types. Eleven. That’s a lot. I wonder if I’ve seen them all. Among this pantheon are cool names such as asperitas, fluctus and cavum.
The article goes on to say that these new designations came about mainly because so many of us have cell phone cameras these days, and odd cloud photos kept popping up that did not fit neatly into the 4 cloud system of yore. That’s the cool thing about science. The more you observe, the more you have to describe, and the more you learn.
And I have no doubt that I could add these 11 new cloud types to my knowledge base if I took the time. But will I? Probably not. I already feel pretty overwhelmed as a general rule.
That leaves me with very mixed emotions about this new development. I really liked it when the sky made sense to me. Oh, it’s still wondrous and beautiful, but now it’s… dare I say it? Over my head.
The sun is shining and I feel like I’m emerging from the hibernation that is induced by a Seattle winter. I want to get outside and explore! I want to hop on a plane! I want to roll around naked in a field of flowers!
Yeah. That’s not going to happen.
Weather notwithstanding, I still have a job that expects my attendance, and bills to pay and garbage to drag out to the curb. Life has this annoying habit of going on.
I am looking forward to getting off work and spending a few hours each day basking in the sun in my back yard with Quagmire, though. That’s my warm weather Seattle routine. Me and Quag, just the two of us. We can make it if we try.
I’m also looking forward to going to the farmer’s market every week again. And I plan to take Quagmire to the dog park more often. And there’s so much in this town and state that I’ve yet to see. Maybe I’ll do some of that, too.
This restlessness is Spring fever, I know. And it’s also the realization that I’m not getting any younger and there’s so much I still want to do. And the fact that I’d really rather not do all these things alone, and yet here I am, alone, means that I feel like all my nerves are on the surface of my skin.