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Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Summer makes me happy. I like autumn, and parts of winter and spring, but summer brings a freedom to it, a lightness of being that I adore. It brings some of my favourite things – pohutukawa in bloom, blue agapanthas following the pohutukawa, my new deck, grilled vegetables, ripe tomatoes, eating outside, noticing (even more than usual) the tui who flit about our trees, and of course, ice-cream. (Which reminds me, I must schedule my Annual Gelato Day for 2015.) Summer doesn’t last long in Wellington. So, when I have the opportunity, I write about summer. As you have no doubt noticed.

However, I am always conscious when I write about summer that the large majority of my blog readers and other online friends* are from the northern hemisphere. Many of them are enduring ridiculous temperatures below freezing, whether we’re talking Fahrenheit or Celsius, blizzards, and all the negatives that come with that. (Although they also have the beauty of snow-covered landscapes that look just like a wonderland to me.) Recently, prompted by a one-word comment also on Fb, I wondered if I was being cruel.

But then I thought about my winters. Inundated by the global media, by FB friends and bloggers, all talking about their summer, it feels as if I endure winter almost on my own. The world struggles to acknowledge that we have different seasons (as I’ve mentioned before). We are lost and forgotten at the bottom of the earth in winter. So I’ve decided that my lone voice gloating over extolling the virtues of summer in Wellington in comparison isn’t really cruel. Actually, it’s not even close to being payback.

 

* Out of consideration to them, I won’t post another photo of the beach or a picnic spot. Not today.

 

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On Friday I drove for the first time since my surgery. My husband has been fantastic, chauffeuring me around wherever I needed to go. He’s had to come to the supermarket with me, as the baskets are too heavy for me to carry, and I’m not allowed to push the trolleys (carts for North Americans) for another week or so. He’s taken me down out of the hills so I can walk on the flat. We’ve been to the mall just to get out of the house on rainy days. In fact, in the last five weeks, we’ve pretty much done everything together. We’re even cooking meals together – unheard of in the first 30 years of our marriage! And it’s been fine. But let’s face it, it hasn’t been just the last five weeks. This time last year we had arrived in the Middle East, at the beginning of our five month trip away. We’ve been together almost every day since. Our relationship has survived intact. And we have wonderful memories together. But sometimes I do think there can be such a thing as too much togetherness.

So when a friend texted me to ask if I wanted to drop everything and go to a movie with her, I jumped at the opportunity. (Okay, not literally.) The movie was excellent (Two Faces of January), and took us both back to travels in Athens and Istanbul. We headed off to Zany Zeus for one of her favourite haloumi sandwiches for a late lunch and a chat, and then I drove home.

I headed along the Esplanade in Petone, looking out across the harbour. Matiu/Somes Island glowed green in the sunlight, and the pier out over the calm but cold water was back-lit by the low, wintry afternoon sun. The sunshine, welcome after a week of gloomy and rainy weather, was showing Wellington off at its best. As I drove home along the motorway that snakes around the hills right on the edge of the harbour, along the fault-line next to the railway lines – passing one of the commuter trains that enjoy such a fantastic view every day – a plane flew overhead, coming in to land at the airport. I thought of a blogging friend I have never met. (We were supposed to meet in Italy last year, but our plans didn’t work out). An American who most recently was living in Europe, she was returning to New Zealand, to live in Wellington again, her home of choice. And on this day, her first day back, our city and harbour put on a sparkling Wellington welcome home for her. I smiled.  And I’m looking forward to finally meeting her over a Wellington flat white.

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington Harbour

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Hot and cold

I’ve been thinking a lot about temperature in the last year. I think it was being subject to the extremes of 47 degrees in Jordan, when suddenly 40 degrees – previously experienced only once in Australia, and possibly on that one day of school in 1973 when it was so hot we were sent home (and NZ’s hottest ever temperature of 42.2 degs C was recorded in our province) – seemed like a more reasonable temperature. At 47 degrees, simply standing in the shade was uncomfortable. The skin on my face felt as if it was burning. I couldn’t imagine having to spend any time in that heat. I worshipped the air-conditioning.

I’ve always been sensitive to temperature changes. To be honest, I don’t like too much heat, but I don’t like the cold either. I blame growing up in a temperate island climate.  It’s rarely unbearably hot, or unbearably cold.  I like seasons. And I like air-conditioning, and central heating. I’ve always listened closely to the radio in the morning before I get out of bed, to find out what the weather forecast for the day is, and what the temperature will be. I like to be able to plan, and dress accordingly. I know that the difference between 18 and 21 degrees (Celsius of course) is the difference between needing one or two layers of clothing. I love that my local Metservice weather app now suggests this.

I know though that I can acclimatise to different temperatures. But it takes time. After three years in Thailand, I found it was too cold to swim during their winters, when the temperature would occasionally (during the day) dip down below 30 degrees. And just before I left, I remember wearing an extra layer at the beach, to the shock of my colleagues recently arrived from New Zealand.  Likewise in Italy, after three months of summer, I found days of 23-24 degrees were a bit chilly. Whereas normally, to me, I would view 24 degs as pretty much the ideal summer day.

So I watch with amazement the temperatures in the US over this winter. Indigo Bunting wrote that she considers 20 degrees F – minus 6.66 Celsius (is that an omen?) – to be a “kind” winter temperature. Kind? We rarely reach freezing point here in Wellington even at night in the depths of winter. Though in the South Island, growing up in an old wooden farmhouse, I remember the pipes freezing overnight once or twice a winter. If the skies were cold and clear when we went to bed, my mother would fill buckets to ensure there was water to heat the next morning. But by 10 am they would have thawed, temperatures quickly rising above zero. So how can minus 6 C – during the day – be kind? (Yes, I know.  It’s all relative.)

I find it both fascinating then, and appalling, to imagine the temperatures that my friends in the far north – those in Vermont and Canada particularly – have endured this winter. My mind just can’t grasp what it feels like. After all, I know what zero (freezing) feels like. And I know what my lovely summer day at 24 C feels like. The difference is huge. And now I know what 47 C feels like. Again the difference is considerable, though over the years I have experienced most of the variations between 0 and 47. But not in the other direction.  I cannot imagine what 24 degrees C below zero feels like. The difference between zero and 24 degs C is already huge; from freezing to balmy, from unsurvivable (in my mind) to ideal, from miserable to happy. To imagine that difference in the other direction – well, I just can’t. All I can do is sympathise.

And, hope, maybe foolishly, that one day I might experience it. Just once would be fine. When I’m dressed appropriately. Just to know what it is like.  When there is a warm house and red wine and good company in close proximity.

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The tiny plane bumped around in the strong northerly wind, but soon stabilised, giving us a phenomenal view out the windows on the left, or west. I love these tiny workhorse planes that link rural New Zealand with its cities. They move quickly, but fly low enough so that I can see the sheep and cows dotted on the landscape, each with long shadows even at midday at this time of year. I can see the fields that have been ploughed, the rich brown soil waiting for spring so it can sprout green. I can see the still lush green fields, relishing the recent rain after a dry summer. I enjoy watching the cars move so slowly along the straight roads of Canterbury, the roads that crisscross the plains stretched out below me. The plains are beautiful – patchwork greens and yellows and brown, edged by dark green macrocarpa hedges, and decorated by the wiggling, braided rivers of the south. The rivers looked cold yesterday – silvery green, filled with icy, glacial water from the mountains. The plains in New Zealand’s South Island do not spread out vastly and endlessly as far as you can see. No, they end abruptly, foothills rising suddenly out of these green, fertile fields. In June, they are already capped with snow, the taller range behind covered completely in snow, and the tall ranges in behind these occasionally peering through the layer of long white clouds, with only a hint of the miles and miles of snow-covered mountains and glaciers hidden there. I wish I had my camera, or could paint. But I’m no artist. I’ll just have to rely on my memory, till I fly south again.

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