You call that ‘weather’? A Kansan and Californian debate.

The weather in Kansas is intriguing, if not always pleasant. California’s is delightful, but repetitive. 

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Welcome rain clouds gather over Santa Fe, New Mexico. The flat topography makes fast-changing weather patterns easy to spot.

I grew up on a farm in rural Kansas. I’ve lived in San Diego now for decades, but my concept of “normal” weather was shaped by my early years. Normal, to me, includes 100-plus degrees Fahrenheit in summer and wind chills well below zero in winter. Noteworthy but still normal: gale-force winds, thunder and lightning that make you sit straight up in bed at night, and sudden buckets of rain. I miss it. I miss weather being a factor. I may be the only one in my neighborhood with a rain gauge. Not that it sees much action.

My husband, though, spent his childhood just up the road, in Orange County. 

“You want to walk in this?” he’ll say, responding to my suggestion with incredulity. To him, it’s raining. To me, it’s misting – sort of. The sidewalk is barely damp. The falling drops of moisture are so small you can’t see them.

Normal, for my husband, is 70 degrees and sunny – all the time. 

To me, this rare mist is a reason to go out. Don’t get me wrong: I love living here, not least of all because I rarely have to take the weather into consideration. But that doesn’t stop me from missing weather’s drama and variety. 

“What’s happening out there today?” might be a Kansan’s first waking thought. Weather there is intriguing, if not always pleasant. Farmers track temperature and rainfall to compare with neighbors and relatives. I miss that. 

In Kansas, weather is fodder for commiseration – or celebration on rare warm and windless days. Weather provides a social glue: Neighbors become more neighborly by helping one another in the wake of severe storms. Californians may scoff at Midwesterners who talk endlessly about the weather, but it’s not mundane chitchat when the topic is the elm that blew onto your garage or the hail that ruined your garden. Life and outside work must continue there, even in adverse weather.

Here, not so much. But residents seem to make a lot out of the small weather we get. When the hot, dry Santa Ana winds blow from the desert, people crank up the AC and hunker down. When it sprinkles, residents stay home. Thunder? Everyone runs for cover and scans the sky for lightning. I taught a class for kids in the neighborhood. On drizzly Saturdays, attendance fell by half. Parents said they were worried about their children’s health, catching a cold. But the classes were indoors.

Having lived out here so long, however, I’m beginning to see with local eyes. When every single day is stellar, there’s no break in the routine. There are no snow days here, or early release from school when it’s too hot. San Diegans don’t get to pull the car into the driveway and run for it through a downpour, shrieking and laughing as they jump onto the porch, soaking wet. They don’t get to huddle together in the basement, wondering how far away the tornado is. OK, I don’t miss that part. But it is a bonding experience, and the result is a tale to tell.

When it’s gray and misty here, people sleep in. They pull on sweaters, steep tea, and play old vinyl records. They observe the change in the weather while safely indoors. So if I want a walk in the “rain” today, I’m on my own. I might just go. But it might also be a good day to pull on my slippers, simmer a pot of chili, and bake chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies.

I bet that’s something my husband could get behind.

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