Kage Baker was fond of that classic weather saying: “Don’t like the weather? Wait a half hour.” She felt it was an absolutely perfect and nearly universal description of meteorological events in most climates. Everyone thinks their local weather is the craziest in the world.
It’s usually attributed to places like the Midwest or coastal areas, where the mixed-grill model of weather is common. When you are living near (or on) large weather-makers like bodies of water and vast plains, you get used to the sudden and the unexpected. And you take a certain pride in it, as well, which Kage also noted.
It’s why so many non-Californians state, with hauteur and mild contempt, that California has no weather. “Ah, if you people had to deal with real weather,” they say wisely, “you wouldn’t be so casual about it.” Then they head for their storm cellar. They say this, of course, because they’ve never stayed in California during one of its meteorological psychotic breaks.
I doubt Californians would get too very worried, though. Partly because living with the earthquakes makes us unreasonably cocky.
Partly, too, because Californians – indeed, West Coasters in general – don’t give up their past times and routines because a cold or warm front blows in. It’s why you get those human interest stories about skiers in bikinis (Hot sun, still plenty of snow!), and extreme boaters. Kage once asked a Washington state tall boat crewman if they minded sailing in the rain. The guy laughed and said that if rain kept them in harbour, they’d never go sailing at all.
The same feeling persists in Newport Beach, I assure you. And the fisher folk in San Diego and Pismo and Monterey and Crescent City just don’t give a tinker’s damn what the weather does, if the fish are running: but fisher folk never do.
Also, despite the folks who evidently need to see a tornado to recognize weather at all, California has weather. The place is a thousand miles long and sandwiched between a mountain range and the Pacific Ocean – man, we got nothing but weather! But it comes in every variety known to Man, often simultaneously, and the changes can be subtle. It’s frequently the case that the sun is, yes, shining from San Francisco to San Diego. But it’s shining through fog, dust, water vapour and sometimes smoke; the sun may be out, but the air temperature will range from 103 to 40 degrees. Somewhere along that cline, the marine layer has advanced and socked in some 10 by 10 mile stretch; somewhere else, the wind is blowing at gale force through miles of grapes and grain, scattering leaves and cereal everywhere.
It all happens at once around here. And when it doesn’t, it at least changes places with insane speed. We have seasons, we really do – but no day typical of any one season is forbidden to show up in another. They make lightning raids on one another’s territory. It’s like the description of the seasons in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The last couple of days, it’s been hot in Los Angeles – in the 80’s, and muggy with it; a sky of hot pearl and all the mountains turned transparent in the haze. I kept my little porch door open till 9 PM, letting in the warm wind and far too many moths. When I went out to my car this morning, though … granite sky. Middle air like crystal, revealing the mountains above San Bernardino to be capped with snow. It was chill enough to see my breath, and it never has gotten over 60 here to day. There’s a wind warning, a high tide warning, and a chance of rain.
I’ll be putting my cotton nightie away and digging the flannel back out of the drawer tonight. Kage – who simply wore nightclothes in layers – would be smirking at me. She never did trust the weather for more than that mythical half hour, anyway.