The heat wave blues

Bleah. It’s hot! It’s been hot ever since I got back from Richland last Friday, but at least it was cooling off at night. No more… Starting Monday it got hot and just stayed hot – over 90 most of the time in the house. Yesterday the high was 105 and last night the “low” was 70 degrees. While some of you in hot climates may not think much of this, keep in mind that most of us in the Pacific NW don’t have any form of air conditioning – my house is 10-15 degrees warmer than the outdoors once this gets going. With skylights, high ceilings, and south-facing windows, there is not much hope for me.

Yesterday afternoon I started to feel that inevitable heat migraine coming on, so I finally gave up and went to a hotel. I felt sorry for my cat, who was sprawled out listlessly on the tile floor and looking at me like, “is it night-time yet”? The next two days are supposed to be hotter still – then we may get a “break” to 85 – which will no doubt feel quite cool by then. I came in this morning to check on things and have my couple hours on the computer before it gets too hot and they have to be shut down – only to find that to add insult to injury, my fan apparently shorted out during the night.

If there was ever any debate about whether I should fork over the cash for installing AC, my doubts are over. I’ve got tons of work to do this week, and most of it’s going to be at least a couple days late. As if to emphasize that I made the right decision, Newsweek ran an article on “things you don’t want to hear from climate scientists” discussing the latest bad news from the science front – turns out the models, rather than being alarmist, are actually underestimating the rate of change. Add to that the latest photos released by the US government showing the loss of polar ice and glaciers in various places, and I’m beginning to think it was a very good investment indeed. Now all we need is thin-film solar to power all the AC we’re going to need just to survive.

I miss the Seattle of my youth. The climate was much more temperate then – days below freezing in the winter and days above 80 in the summer were rare. (Lest you think this is just my childhood rose-colored glasses, I actually checked my recollection out with a UW meteorologist.) Contrast that to 2 feet of snow and temperatures in the teens this winter and 90+ weeks in May, July, and I am sure, August this summer and things have really changed. I can only hope this doesn’t become a distant memory for all of us.

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Be careful what you wish for…

arbor2 Yep, we’re talking snow. I’m looking at my previous post wistfully wishing for snow… well, we’ve had it since Tuesday, in piles! It fell continuously for 3 days, and then Friday morning dawned clear and beautiful. In the meantime I had missed my flight to visit a best friend in Santa Cruz, due to lack of airport transportation (and general fears of icy, snow-covered streets and freeways). :(

But Friday was a gorgeous a day as any you could wish for, with fluffly sparkling snow a foot deep in our driveway, trees holding more of it than usual (more on that later), and that wintry, sunny sky with a few white clouds, sun sparkling on the not-even-pretending-to-melt snow. I should have taken pictures then, it was so beautiful – but I was busy shoveling. Between my neighbor and I, we managed to clear our shared driveway, which is no small feat. It’s not as pretty now, with the piles of snow all around… but no fear, it’s snowing again…

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This morning I noticed the neighbor’s tree had come uprooted and fallen onto the fence, presumably due to the heavy weight of snow. I think it probably was not real healthy to start with, since it used to drop leaves year-round. It was pretty, on the other hand, my vegetable garden will have a lot more sun now. We’ve got a bit of work ahead of us to get it out and shore up the fence, since she can’t afford the insurance deductable. Chain-saw, anyone??

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Now there is a snow and ice storm coming in for another two days, supposed to be larger than the last. All I care about is that the power stays on… cause it’s going to get awfully cold around here if it doesn’t. My neighbor and I were joking about that tree becoming firewood for her wood-burning stove – not that that’s going to happen anytime soon.

I DID wish for this. Just keep telling myself that :D

Magical weather

The other night I was returning home through downtown Olympia and they had beautiful (tasteful) lighted snowflake decorations up in the streets. I had a sudden urge to be sitting downtown in a dusky coffeeshop by the fire, drinking a latte and watching the snow fall outside. It’s December, so it could happen :) It got me thinking about the magical nature of snow. It transforms the landscape, making even the dingiest, coldest city streets beautiful. It seems to transform our lives, bringing back the wonder of childhood. Perhaps it’s the sheer magnitude and completeness of the transformation, that along with its beauty, makes it so wonderful. That thrill of going to bed on Christmas Eve as a child, wondering if the world would be white when you woke up. Or maybe the reprieve of snow on a schoolday, or a good-excuse-to-stay-home-from-work day, since everyone knows Seattleites are hopeless in the snow.

I got to musing about other weather that has magical effects on me, that makes me stop and look, experience. There’s an early fall thing that has always held a strange electric excitement for me – at the end of September or early October, when the nights are not yet freezing, there comes a night when the wind is whipping up but strangely warm, when the dry leaves are circling in the air and the trees are swaying and rustling, the night sky clear and bright, the moon rising. Every year it comes, and every year I have a tremor, a sense that anything could happen, my life could change tonight. I know where that comes from – those teenage years when I was out late at night and anything was possible.

Also fall, when the colors of the leaves sear themselves into your eyes, and it’s all you can do to keep driving and not looking. You could lose yourself in those leaves, and never get where you are going. Too bad there’s somewhere to go, but into the forest.

The Moon… it never fails to hold my attention. Whether glowing through fog or wispy through clouds, silver, gold, blue or orange, full and bright or the barest sliver, any time I see the moon I watch, and wait, and contemplate the night.

I wish I could say I have the same love for the sun, but it doesn’t love me. In any day of not-summer, there are times when the sun has its glories – usually in spring or summer when the sky is washed clean and a deep blue, crystalline against the bright green of the trees. Sometimes I may walk down the street and just marvel at the livingness of it. There’s a particular quality that this has due to the auras in my vision that make this especially brilliant for me, I think…

And yours?

A perfect summer day

All summer, the weather has been strange – cold start, then blazingly hot, followed by torrential rains in August, you name it. From cold to hot in an instant and back again. But today was perfect, as perfect as a summer day can be. I thought I’d capture it…

The cushions were all aired out from the rains after 2 days in the sun, and I brushed off all the patio furniture and put it all together – clean and dry. The temperature was perfect on my skin – so close to just right that there was no noticeable hot or cold. I climbed into my green garden hammock and snoozed, the cat climbing up and joining me there.

In the garden, tomatoes ripening on the vine and squash plants climbing all over, getting ready to set their fruit. In the background, the amazing deep cornflower blue hydrangeas, like none I’ve ever seen, and the honeysuckle arbor with visiting, twittering hummingbirds flitting overhead.

A dragonfly passes high above, the green trees all around. Wind ruffles the trees and sends a breeze to lull us in our hammock. The sky blue, with wispy clouds drifting across it. The sky and trees seeming crystalline and far away, unreal.

Taking out cold salmon, sour cream and dill sauce and cucumber salad and enjoying my dinner outside, savoring the ability to have dinner outdoors and enjoy the early evening. A good day… looking forward to many more in September!

Impressions of the Aquarius Full Moon

Last night I was driving home at 1am, watching the full moon hanging over the night sky at the end of a long, very hot day. The heat wave makes everyone a little crazy to start with, and an Aquarius full moon can result in all kinds of unexpected strangeness.

Soon the night sky was lit up with lightning, flashes and sheet lightning. Police and ambulances were out in force, all the more noticeable in the middle of the night traffic. Everywhere I looked, flashing red and blue lights kept me focused on careful driving.

Awakened at 4am by thunder and my cat meowing piteously at the door, frightened by the strangeness of the weather and upset already that I had been gone all day and was now ignoring her. I got up sleepily and we had some calming time on the couch. The moon moved into Pisces and all was quiet…

It’s still very hot.

In weather news…

Driving to a friend’s party today, I was struck by the headline news on NPR. The first four stories were all about strange weather… followed by the elections in Zimbabwe. Except for the very first item, this wasn’t the weather, it was the news news, if you know what I mean. So here they were:

– Record high temperatures in the Pacific Northwest for this date, including over 100 degrees in Shelton and other areas west of the Cascades (!) Thankfully, it only got up to 87 here. Not incidentally, it’s really much worse for it to be this hot so early in the year, because the days are SO long. Usually this kind of weather doesn’t come until August, when blessed relief in the form of evening arrives sooner :) My garden was really nice this evening, when the house was still too hot.

– President Bush declaring an emergency in California, where yet again, multiple large fires are raging due to lightning strikes – though it’s a bit early in the year, the firefighters and local community resources are already exhausted.

– In stark contrast to the first two items, a levee breaking in Missouri as constant rain continues to bring misery to towns and cities in the Midwest.

– Power outages (and flooding) across central Ohio following windstorms and tornadoes. Do you think of Ohio as a tornado state?

Routine newscasts like this one may finally give a clue to those who go around saying that global warming couldn’t really be happening because (insert dumb idea here…/it’s colder than usual this month/it’s raining a lot lately/everything seems normal today).

Thunderstorms and cilantro margaritas

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Well, you might think that Puerto Vallarta always looks like this, and in fact this is the view from my balcony. However, travelling there in summer isn’t quite as idyllic as this – it can be a bit more tumultuous. Sure, you’ll see the sun, but also lots of rain, thunder, and lightning, as well as grey mornings – something that makes me feel right at home.

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The first night we arrived we decided to brave a torrential downpour and go out to dinner. We soon found out that many restaurants, galleries, etc. are closed in summer too, since it’s not really tourist season. So as we were driving around, I spied a restaurant I remembered as having a fine culinary reputation, and it appeared to be open. Sure enough, as the taxi pulled up, a waiter leaped out into the street with a very large umbrella – we took that as a good sign and went inside.

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It turned out to be an inspired choice, entirely by chance (the way the best things always are). The restaurant was Cilantro’s, and the walls were covered with art. Since most of the galleries were closed, this was a definite plus. There was indeed a lot of cilantro in the dishes on the menu, which was part of what attracted me to the restaurant. And since it was our first night in Puerto Vallarta, a margarita was called for – a cilantro margarita, no less. It was excellent. Just a hint of sugar in the salt to set off the minty flecks of cilantro infused throughout the drink. Possibly one of the best margaritas I’ve ever had. And the food was likewise delicious and artistically presented. When my companion’s normal margarita turned out to be less than inspired, the waiter noticed he wasn’t drinking it, inquired as to the cause, and quickly returned with a much better one. Now that’s service!

Now I know why the cobblestoned streets here are as rocky as they are – the literal rivers of water that run down the hills every evening in summer. Next time I’ll bring my Tivas – they’d be better suited to being immersed in six inches of water. We searched for some days to find an umbrella, only to have it confiscated at the airport on the way home ;D

Toward the end of our stay, the thunderstorms at night began being more intense. At first they spent most of their time above the mountains ringing the bay to the south, providing spectacular light shows during dinner, easily putting to shame the firework displays provided every night for the tourists. Lightning flashed every few seconds in the sky, at first mostly sheet lightning, followed eventually by frequent strikes.

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On our last evening there, the thunderstorm came to us, directly overhead. I’ve never been in anything like it – lightning flashing constantly, and the sky opening up with booming thunder as if reminding us of our insignificance. When I travel, I like to be on the top floor – so there we were, at the highest point, surrounded by the thunder, rain, and lightning. In one memorable moment, the entire beachfront went dark, then powered up again, as lightning struck out to sea.

Thankfully, our flights were all timed to avoid the daily thunderstorms, though the cloud formations coming in in the late afternoon were quite spectacular. Still and all, we enjoyed it. It’s a nice town, even in summer. Only the stickiness of the heat diminished my enjoyment of it, and had I known more what to expect, I might have been better prepared (what passes for light summer clothing here in Seattle just doesn’t cut it in the tropics). The flowers are beautiful this time of year…

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