Thursday, October 4, 2007

Relative Seasons

September 2007

My dad calls me from his house in the southern California desert and asks about the weather.
“Cold, I say. “Rainy.”

“What?” he exclaims. It’s the middle of August, for chrissakes!”

“I know that, dad. I have a calendar.”

“Hell, it’s about 80 degrees here. I’m standing in front of the air conditioner right now.”
I can’t help feeling that he gets a secret thrill from telling me this. He’s been doing it all year long. Ever since we moved to Whidbey he has been exuberantly comparing the weather, and offering detailed descriptions of how he has been enjoying the warm balmy breeze, swimming in the pool, basking in the warmth in the lawn chair on his patio, etc.
He’s not usually such an exuberant guy, but this has become like a sport to him. A game he can always win. Now that he has had to give up racquetball in his late 70’s I guess he needs other forms of competitive entertainment, and this is it.
“What’s the temperature?” he wants to know.

“Oh, around 58 degrees, I guess.”

“Wow! That’s cold! Unbelievable! And here I am in nothing but a pair of shorts! It’s gotta be about 75 at least!” (Goal!)

I won’t say I’m not an avid participant in this game. There is a somewhat perverted sense of satisfaction in reporting these harsh conditions and sharing my suffering, hoping for sympathy. Not to mention priding myself on the extremes that I am able to endure. The cold! The rain! Snowstorms and hail! I may like to whine about it, but at the very least I have survived.

Now it’s September, and the Indian summer we were promised has not manifested. No doubt it is vacationing somewhere in southern California after a warm but short summer season, while here we don our sweaters and jackets once again and watch the leaves fall from the trees, bright yellow and rust against a slate blue sky. Honestly, I am as tired of talking about the weather as I am hearing about it, but it certainly has been a main character in our lives this past year. It is true that we moved here during the worst year anyone has ever experienced. The long harsh winter followed by a tentative and too brief summer, and now this arctic chill again as the days grow shorter and darker every day. We can feel our old familiar friend winter waiting impatiently in the wings, smiling his cold and icy blue grin.

My father and I are different in many ways, but we do share this annoying restless urge to move and try out new places, like some kind of wild gene, that has been both a curse and a blessing in our lives. Ever since I was a child I remember him taking off on trips, or moving us from one place to another, always with that hope and enthusiasm of the new home being better and more exciting than the last one. Before I was 5 years old we had lived in four different states and three countries. After we moved to California, however, it became the place we always returned to. The place we eventually called home.
“Dad, we want to move back.” I say.
“I know, honey. I know exactly how is.”

My dad and I, we disagree on a lot of things. Politics, art, books, lifestyles. But when it comes to travel and moving, we share a deep rooted bond, a knowing, if you will, that places have energy, and they call to you. Sometimes they spit you out, but you still have to try. At least they give you stories to tell. And you can’t beat that delicious satisfaction and magic in discovering and exploring them, even when it is only in your imagination. We can pull out our mental maps at any given time and we are there, sharing our dreams and our memories. It makes us feel vital and alive and connected. It ties us together as accomplices in something other people don’t necessarily understand. It’s an odd game, perhaps. But at least for that moment, we’re batting on the same team.