Place in the World

Sunset on the Butte

Growing up in southern California, in the San Fernando Valley, there were no seasons.

It could be 90F in January as well as July.

Any time a stray cloud passed we would hope some rain would fall to turn the dry brown foothills back to a lush green and, as long as it was raining, maybe wash away the smog.

Although beaches to surf and mountains to ski were relatively close at hand, they were shared with millions of others who wanted to play in the sand or snow on any given day.

As were everything else — restaurants, theaters, freeways, sporting venues, lakes — too crowded for my tastes.  By the time I was in junior high school I knew my future place in the world would not be living in southern California.

Shortly after high school I, along with two close friends, embarked on a month-long motorcycle journey.  We traveled north the length of California, into Oregon and Washington, east to Idaho, north to Alberta, Canada, back to British Columbia, returning home via the Pacific Coast Highway.  This adventure was my introduction to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Mercy at the Beach

Beaches and mountains remain close at hand and, without hordes of people descending upon them en masse, are peaceful paradises to enjoy.

Off-season you may find yourself alone on a two-mile stretch of sandy coastline.  Ski mid-week and not worry about lift lines (the lines are not all that long on weekends, either).

Middle Fork

There are numerous clear lakes and rivers to frolic in, plentiful enough to accommodate all visitors easily, yet still retain their serene and blissful qualities even during the heat of summer.

I will admit, however, that we do get a tad bit of rain.  Fortunately, most of it occurs only during a roughly seven month period (November through May).  Late spring is drier, early fall is drier still, and summer (which we hope will be on a weekend this year) is dry.

Rain in the Pacific Northwest is different than the (occasional) rain in southern California.  Up here we don’t melt if we get rained on.  We hardly even rust.  Umbrellas are for visitors.

In southern California, on the other hand, rain is always a double-edged sword.  While it is generally welcomed, at least the first quarter inch or so, it also creates havoc.  Freeways are choked from increased wreckage, outside construction projects are shut down, class recess and physical education classes get relegated to the auditorium, mudslides frequent the neighborhoods hit by the last fire season.

Those are my memories, at any rate.  Nobody worked or played outside.

If those rain-aversion traits were practiced in the Northwest we wouldn’t have any construction for most of the year, all the kids would go cabin crazy, people wouldn’t bicycle or jog — in short, things would stop.  But we don’t stop when it rains, even during commuting rush minutes (they’re not long enough to be called rush hours unless you live in Portland or Seattle).

As I noted on that fateful motorcycle trip so many years ago, seemingly nothing here stops because of the rain.  Roofers still roof, cyclists still cycle, and joggers still jog.  Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you can’t play your softball game in the mud.

It’s raining here at this moment.  We have a view of a park and elementary school down the hill.  It’s raining, and the school children are out playing tetherball, swinging on the playground apparatus, shooting hoops.  It’s raining, and not a single kid has melted.

2 thoughts on “Place in the World”

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