Weather-wise, Alaska was a lot easier

So, how about this weather? Where I live, in St. Louis, it's been completely remarkable. Two weeks ago it was so hot and humid you could hardly breathe, and last night there was a frost. Remarkable.

I can hear the guy's voice from the nature shows: "The climate here in the Midwest is so hot and humid in the summer that it is impossible for humans to survive." I hear this voice only in my imagination as I wait for the light at the crosswalk to change. I look around and see humans going about their business regardless of the temperature. I have to marvel. How is it possible to live here?

I step out onto the porch in the morning, and any activity more strenuous than reaching into my pocket for my car keys makes me break out in a copious sweat.

The wind here can blow so hard it knocks trees over, though just a block away there is no damage at all. Tornadoes, too. Sure, they make the TV news, but it's no big deal. They happen every year. A little window at the bottom of your TV screen pops up when we are expecting them. But still, citizens go about their activities.

And then one night it will snow a few inches for a few hours, then rain a few inches, then freeze. We all slide around in our cars the next morning, but still make it to work. It'll be on the news, too. Aerial footage from the 'copter. People will be interviewed standing next to crumpled cars. (They do that for the tornadoes, too: interview people next to crumpled houses and knocked-down trees.)

The power goes out a lot. Storms blow down the lines, or the ice gets too heavy for them, or whatever else comes along. But the people still do their thing. And they'll talk about it on the news.

I try to behave like everyone else. I'll visit with my friends about the weird weather. When I first moved here, I thought that the weather was remarkable just that particular season, and that it would sort itself out, as it should, by spring. But the next season betrayed me, as did the next. And then I realized that that's how the weather is here: It's always doing something peculiar.

I check the computer before I ride my motorcycle home at night. I don't particularly mind riding in inclement weather, and it's tough to avoid here. But the Doppler Weather Center assures me that we won't have rain for the next six days. Next morning, though, I'm soaked to the skin before I make it to the first stoplight. I'm not surprised. The poor weather-guesser hardly ever gets it right.

I complained a lot when we first moved here, for about three years. But then I learned that griping didn't have any effect. So I made jokes about it for a couple of years. Then I ran out of jokes. Now I just get in line with the rest of the population and go about my business.

I've learned an important survival technique: move more slowly in the summer. It works. If you take a normal day's work, cut it in half, and pause for long breaks with tall glasses of lemonade, you can make it. It took me a while, though, to quit fighting it.

"The human adapts to his surroundings," says the voice of the nature shows.

Where I used to live, the weather was a lot easier to deal with. Sure, winter was dark, but in the Arctic at least you could make sure plans. You always knew what the weather was going to do. They didn't make a fuss about it on the TV, and people always made it to work on time. Or if they didn't, at least they couldn't blame the weather. Yes, minus 50 degrees F. is cold, but you knew it was coming. It was always that cold this time of year, and you were ready. There were no big changes; it's cold today, it was cold yesterday, and it's going to be cold tomorrow.

In Fairbanks, Alaska, you could plan a ski trip and not worry about the weather. It was going to be cold and snowy for sure. "The humans go about their day much the same every day, all winter."

Here they have snow days: When the weather guesser guesses it's going to snow, the TV tells you not to go to school the next day. The little window on the TV screen that warned you about tornadoes or thunderstorms last season now has a list of school closings. The poor TV rarely gets it right, so kids are disappointed that it's warm and sunny the next morning, but happy they still get to miss school. In the Arctic there aren't so many cars and high-speed interstates to snarl things up, so the poor kids always have to go to school.

Summer was dependable, too; mild and sunny. If the skies decided to rain on you, they usually did so only halfheartedly, not enough to make you change your plans and certainly no tornadoes or blown-over trees causing power outages. A raven flew into a turbine and shut us off one time, but these things happen.

Well, OK, there was always some excitement the first time it snowed each year. Some people need to relearn the hard way that snow is slick. So the news crews would be out in the morning interviewing hapless motorists. But no 'copter; that would have been a poor investment.

Cold is peaceful, too. "When it's cold, the humans are about the only thing moving." You pretty much had the place to yourself in the winter. The cold is a little dangerous. But you can dress for it. I read one time that exposed skin can freeze in something like half a minute at minus 40 F. I never tried it. For all its danger, I never had much trouble with the cold. Not so the heat here. You can dress for the cold; put on enough clothes, and cold is just fine. Bulky, but fine. I can't get undressed enough here to make summer "fine."

The weather cycles up north were subtler. I guess they were weather cycles, or maybe just weather-helped cycles. One summer there was an abundance of white moths with brown specks that liked aspen trees. Another summer there were a lot of yellow jackets, and once we had a ton of those little purple moths hanging out at all the puddles. Then one year we had a lot of bunnies, and you knew that the following year you'd have a lot of owls and lynx.

As I said, I don't complain anymore. I have found the beauty here, too. It took a while; with all the violence of the milder weather down here, it was harder to see.

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