Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days of Places: The Pacific Northwest; Rainy season.

It rained in Portland today for the first time since June. That's not an exaggeration, since Kathy renewed my long-dead subscription to The Oregonian for my birthday, so I'm now a semi-informed citizen again and it tells me these things. We haven't had a significant rainfall since June. That is a long time. While this has been a particularly long dry spell, it's not that unusual. 

Growing up on the East Coast, you associate West Coast cities with One Specific Fact. There are gay people in San Francisco. There are movie stars in LA. There's a lot of rain in Portland and Seattle. That's it! Geography knowledge BOOM.

This is slightly deceiving though, since for a good portion of the year here, it actually hardly rains at all. It's sort of all or nothing with the Pacific Northwest, which is a cycle that still throws me for a bit of a loop. There are two seasons: rain, and no rain. 

For instance, while summer is the typical gardening season in Normalville (Normalville being places which are not here), and people do engage in plenty of it here--this is a bad example because people really do live for the gardening--by the end of August or September, all the flowers have shriveled and everyone's yards look like this:

Our "yard;" ie., strange patch of grass in front of our apartment. 
Thank goodness for alienesque weeds, right?

Except for the fools who waste water on their artificial lawns all summer long like idiots, everyone else's is this lovely pale dead color. And then it's the middle of winter or early spring, when things are normally brown and frozen in Normalville, that the world is bursting with green. Because by that point here, of course, it's never stopped raining.

The rain today means a few things: all of the barely-hanging-on plants of the world rejoice, and I get to bust out Toby's raincoat. And believe me, he looks quite handsome in his raincoat. 

While the outside world has been drifting into fall for a while now, and my birthday has come and gone so I know time is moving forward, there's been something about the consistently lovely and dry weather up until today that dulled my brain and made these last few months slurry together. But suddenly when it rained today, it was like I could actually hear a snap inside my personal atmosphere that yelled CHANGE! I ran around the house closing storm windows; I felt rather cheery about the gloom and started planning out in my head how I could squeeze in more reading time through the next few months, more snuggling in my bed time. I turned on the heat for the first time. I had a rash urge to watch Christmas movies even though I have a strict no-Christmas-movies-until-after-Thanksgiving rule. I felt ready to rock this nesting, hibernating season! In other words, I went a bit batty. Because goodness knows, in no time, the rain will have seeped its misery into everything and I will look back and want to smack the giddy girl of today.

The rain of the Northwest is strange. It hardly ever downpours in a torrential way; although the rain today was pretty serious. There's only thunder or lightning once in a blue moon; it's always a cold rain. More often than not, it's not so much a constant rain as a constant drizzle, a constant greyness. And this greyness seeps into your bones after a while.

I've never doubted that seasonal affective disorder is a real thing for many people. I wouldn't say I'm affected to the point of a disorder, but after five years of living here, I can't deny that the long, grey winter affects me somehow. While winter drags on for even longer on the East Coast, at least snow livens things up, is different, seems exciting. While I know a lot of people who don't necessarily get amped about snow, I would prefer it any day to the neverending grey.

And so my knowledge that I would one day soon be not so excited about the rain like I was today wasn't even necessarily like a funny-but-unavoidable fact, one of those things that you groan about but bear it. It felt fraught with a certain anxiety. The last two winters in particular have been tough for me. I can't recollect for certain how the winters before that went, but for the past two years between the months of December and April, things have been rough, for a multitude of different reasons. And maybe it just sounds like an excuse to explain my mopeyness, but I feel that that endless grey must have exacerbated them. And while I'll hopefully not have to worry about those different reasons this year, part of me can't help but worry that the grey will suck me in again, will do its job of highlighting all the negative thoughts and burying the good ones.

So I'm trying to make a pledge to myself, on this first day of rain, to like myself this winter. To hold on to my self-esteem until the sun shines again. To funnel the grey into reading and writing, to catching up on TV and movies, and nothing else. I'm going to work and save as much money as possible. I'm going to try to get back into cooking. I'm going to be boring, but happy. 

Of course, if we could control these things, then SAD would never even be an issue, but I'm just telling myself and you, Blogger, that this year, I'm going to do my damndest to try.

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