As I write, the sky is powdered with gray clouds which are spitting drizzle. It’s 46 degrees and eleven minutes shy of noon. And on April 19, the weather has been some variation of this since, oh, October. Our high desert setting provides mostly blue skies, thankfully, but the temps have stayed somewhere in the zero-to-fifty range for the past eight months.
This is hard on a native Texan.
This time of year, I’ve learned to open Instagram and Facebook trepidatiously, since many of my friends and family in Texas are publishing their garden growth or their day at the lake or their front porch afternoon in shorts and flip-flops. I grow homesick and angry and sometimes sad. We’ll get there, too, I tell myself—come July, we’ll enjoy a magical summer (the equivalent of a Texas spring) for six weeks before the leaves start changing and we’re back to our highs in the 50s. During this short-lived season of ours, my comrades down in Texas are holing up in their air-conditioned houses, hunkering down for the slippery, sticky heat that lasts from May to September. While we are doing the lake thing, albeit often in cardigans, and even rarer if we’re swimming.
I tell myself these things—that summer is coming and that it’s lovely—because I realize it really could be so much worse. Central Oregon is not the Yukon, or Alaska, or Siberia, or Scandinavia. There are places around the world that are frigid year-round, and this topography where our nomadic family has currently plopped down is gratifyingly easy on the eyes. The Cascade mountains say good morning in my windshield whenever I turn the corner to return home after dropping off my daughter at school. Sunday drives are ambles through lava rocks and river roads more than they are drive-bys past stripmalls. And I never stop audibly gasping in the fall when I drive up a particular mountain to take my son to speech therapy—the leaves are so shockingly yellow they look fake to my Austinite eyes.
But none of these swathes of beauty change the fact that it’s darn cold for eights months per year, which is hard on someone who thrives in flip-flops more than snow pants. And it continually surprises me how much environment, climate, and weather affect my attitude.
By late April, I get to the point where I start brainstorming ways we can get the heck out of Dodge during the spring, because quite frankly, I start to go a little crazy. I start needing more sleep. My work quality lessens. I swear. I go into survival mode, hunkering down in my bunker, wondering how much longer I have to wait out cabin fever to start digging my fingernails in the backyard dirt. I ponder and pray over my favorite benefit of homeschooling—its flexibility—and ask God whether it’s what we need to do to thrive here, since both Kyle and I can work from anywhere in the world. In essence, I start asking, “Why, of all places, are we here?”
I know that come June, I’ll be reminded of the high desert beauty, and I’ll gladly enjoy our backyard fire pit until September. And I’ll do my best to savor the summer moments, as fleeing as they are (because, after all, it can still be in the 50s and 60s during June and July). And I’ll ask God for grace, grace, and more grace to endure the long winter months, with perhaps a smattering sunshine on the side. And for remembrance of what suffering really is, because come on, compared to the world’s woes, a Southerner’s long winter is a first-world problem.
But I’ll shout and leap for joy when the snow finally thaws on Black Butte in June, the hill the locals watch to know when it’s time to finally plant their gardens. And I’ll drink a mojito or three, because for this Texan, the summer is the best thing about living here. I need to soak it up all I can to make the long winters worth it.