Thursday, March 24, 2011


This winter is going to end. That sounds crazy, but seriously. It’s going to end. Did the past several days of warm weather hovering in the 70’s and 80’s turn me on to this fact? No. The fact that it just started raining did. Raining and thundering and lightening and wind rustling, and all sorts of fun, definitively summeresque things.
Growing up in Japan, the weather was exciting. And excitingly predictable. My parents used to joke with new post-docs and whatnot coming in from overseas to Japan for the first time about it. You’re not supposed to wear short sleeves until May 1st, for example. And there are times in April when it can only be described as hot. Yet the weather is polite and punctual, not unlike the Japanese themselves, and waits until it is socially acceptable to wear short sleeves to really kick your ass with the stifling, muggy, oppressive heat. Plums bloomed in March. Cherries in April. Apples in May. And then there was typhoon season. Which started precisely on September 1st (or whenever it is supposed to start. Honestly I can’t remember…)
Typhoon season came at the end(ish) of summer. Summer had a tendency to go back into high gear not so long after typhoon season ended just to make sure your ass was kicked before winter set in, and you froze your butt off in your un-insulated prefab house…. Typhoon season came with lots of preparation and reminiscing of past big storms. But for us, typhoon season was fun.
When we first moved to Japan we lived in a new planned community right across the street from what was a vacant lot that was large by any standards, especially Japanese ones. This vacant lot (and indeed out whole neighborhood) had been carved out of a mountain top and meticulously leveled, and had great reinforced concrete drainage pipes and whatnot built into it. This lot would later (after we moved a few blocks away) turn into a new elementary school (that my sister went to), but for the first few years it was a blissful playground for us. I would ‘practice’ my volleyball serves against the concrete wall reinforcement at the end of it, and after the typhoon had passed we would slide down the drainage pipe on our butts in the gushing water coming down out o the field well after the actual rain had stopped.
And while Japanese weather is predictable (sure – to the extent that weather can be predictable, but still), the weather her in my new home state has been anything but. Record lows this winter, a very strange March (so far)… snow, rain, random heat….
10 minutes later the sky opened up.
But what is really getting me started upon this little jaunt down memory lane is the smell. That “it’s been super hot all day and now the temperature and the pressure and the sky has dropped and is about to unload copious amounts of water on you while you’re still trying to run for cover and/or bring in the laundry” smell. A smell that can only be brought to you by drastic temperature changes. Like when a summer sky gets clouded over and your sunburn is all of a sudden making you cold instead of warm. You don’t get this kind of exciting weather in coastal California. Yes you get windstorm and rain storms and whatnot – but nothing as quick and dramatic and “catch you with your pants down” as this kind of weather.
And to be honest – I missed this weather. It’s amazing how you can forget. And it’s amazing what makes you remember. Through a seemingly random chain of events I ended up spending my formative years in Japan, and then again it was completely random that I ended up in coastal California for almost 8 years, and then it was by total chance that I ended up in North Carolina (OK – this one is actually the least random if you know me and my family history). But I wasn’t expecting to be so reminded of – and homesick for – my childhood by moving to North Carolina. And sometimes – like this afternoon – it knocks my socks off.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like NC is keeping you on your toes! You're so right that the unpredictability of the weather reflects on life itself. Beautiful!


caitlinvb said...

It is!! I knew I'd like it here, but the extent of that liking is definitely catching me by surprise. And sorry for all the typos and shoddy writing this time around. I will get it fixed as soon as I'm near a wifi connection again. I can't edit properly on my iPhone...

Malia said...

The east smells like Japan, I swear! I miss the dramatic-ness of Japanese weather too, although it was -13 this morning and was blizzarding just a moment ago, only to reveal a beautiful blue sky. Pretty dramatic! I guess the only difference is inside temperatures stay pretty much the same all year round...

caitlinvb said...

I know! Aren't things on the east coast just...different? Did you go to saganakasho, too? I couldn't remember.... Have fun with your stable inside temp. Love you!