Okay, technically I didn’t have a vacation. But, some might argue, mine is a vacation lifestyle, what with the working at home and choosing my own hours and not making any money. However, as this was my first complete summer in Seattle, the vacation mindset fit like a baggy pair of shorts, with room to breathe, eat hearty, and enjoy the breeze.
When I first told friends in Virginia that I was moving to Seattle, everyone remarked on the weather, noting the city’s famous rain. Most spoke with a touch of sympathy, as if I were being sentenced to a soggy fate. At the time, Seattle was undergoing a monsoonish December. The outlook appeared dim. But I was confident that the sun also rose in Seattle. I dismissed my friends’ concerns and waved goodbye to the East Coast with nary a backward glance. It was drizzling when we arrived here. And, to be honest, the first three or four months were about as balmy as a meat locker. Accustomed as I was to the blistering pace of spring in Virginia and the searing temperatures of the long hot summers there, I found my faith tested by the way the chill lingered in Seattle. Locals kept telling me, “Oh, you’ll see. It gets hot here.” And I would mutter, Yeah? When? One neighbor tried to explain it by assuring me that summer doesn’t really begin in Seattle until after July 4. So, when the daytime highs were still in the 60s in June, I gritted my teeth and kept my sweater handy.
But then, just when I was beginning to think of giving away my shorts, the rains stopped, the sun came out, and the slow bake began. It wasn’t until about a month into it that I noticed that it wasn’t just the lack of humidity that was different. It was the complete lack of any kind of rain or dew. They don’t talk about the dew point out here. There’s no point, so to speak. The gardens here don’t seem to mind. And, as a maniacal gardener, I have been totally seduced by the city’s marvelous array of plants, but surprised by the shortage of some staple features of summers in rural Virginia. I miss the fireflies, the spring peepers, the butterflies and bluebirds, the hummingbirds who patrolled my garden with dazzling frequency. Heck, I even kind of miss the cicadas. Still, such creatures are less likely to frequent urban landscapes on either coast. However, for me, the most dramatic difference between summer in Virginia and summer in Seattle is the lack of thunderstorms.
It seems odd, in a way, because Seattle, in itself, is such a dramatic place, with breathtaking mountain views in every direction and stunning seascapes at every turn. But, for all its sensational scenery, it’s amazingly quiet. I mean, there is the ordinary roar of traffic and the bustle of daily life, the purr of espresso machines and the patter of thousands of joggers. But, despite all this hum of energy, the only time the sky explodes is during the Fourth of July celebrations. Whereas in Virginia, heart-stopping thunderstorms are common in the months of June, July and August. True, they can be scary, deafening, and sometimes deadly. But damn! They pull the plug on your complacency and remind you that there’s a greater power out there. And when they knock the electricity out, they humble you and force you to examine your own dependencies. Or invest in a generator.
Anyway. That’s how I spent my summer vacation. Drinking coffee, eating Top Pot doughnuts, and waiting to hear that distant rumble of thunder. To sense that sudden lift in the breeze and drop in the temperature. To feel the thrill of that drum roll on the roof that signals the storm’s arrival. I’m no longer expecting it to happen. But, after this long, sunny, dry summer, I’m beginning to understand that around here the end won’t come with a bang. I expect it will be more of a long, cold drizzle. And I’ll be the one whimpering. Thank God for those doughnuts.