Sunday, November 7, 2010

A random kvetch about weather and how we're taught

Why do schools insist on teaching that Winter means snow and mittens and snowball fights and ice skating and Spring means new growth and April showers, and Summer means hot, hot, HOT, and Autumn means rain and wind and leaves falling off of trees? I believe that this universal teaching of "How seasons work" has put us poor Californians in a constant state of being surprised and disgruntled with our weather because our weather is rarely what it's "supposed" to be. Take right now for instance. It is November and all last week it was hot. It was absolutely beautiful, but it got up to 95 degrees. We did have several consecutive weeks of rain, but now we're back to warm/hot. We had a very mild summer this year and I don't recall that it ever got scorching the way I've experienced it in the past. I also don't recall ever experiencing April showers, but June Gloom and scattered June showers I think happen almost every year. And yet we're always surprised by it! Like "Hey! It's June! It's supposed to be hot now!" it's not. It'll get hot in July. But June is overcast. Of course it never snows here. It does get brisk, but it also tends to be sunny even when it's our version of "freezing outside". This is of course, part of why the Rose Parade is such a success.

I really feel that we would all be more content and relaxed if we were taught "California seasons". Wouldn't it be nice to know, "Hey, this is what happens in New England, this whole snow, new growth, hot, rain/wind thing, but over here, this is what you can expect to see throughout the year as a Southern California resident so that you don't spend the rest of your life complaining when it is hot in November and chilly in June."

I've heard of several people who suggest that we should label California not by our weather seasons but our natural disaster seasons. Fire season, flood season, mud slide season. That's an idea. Sort of negative, but at least more accurate. In my Southern California Gardening book, the author discusses that in many ways our summer season is our "winter" in the sense that it is that harshest season for our plants to endure. While folks in New England are reading gardening books to learn how to protect their plants from winter's frost, we have to protect our plants from the intense summer heat. There are so many plants that simply will not grow here because the life cycle of the plant depends on a dormant frost period to then trigger new growth when it warms up. Because we go hot/rainy/hot/cold/hot/hot/hot/HOT all of the time, it really limits the variety of what we can hope to grow. I'm convinced this is why so many people think they stink at gardening. It is simply that we are taught nothing about our local climate. So people don't know that our summer is really our "winter enduring season" so they stick their delicate plants outside and wonder why they've burnt to a crisp. Or they stick something outside that requires a cold dormant season and then wonder why it stopped growing.

So when I see my daughter bringing home her little Kindergarten weather drawings where she's coloring a little boy's mittens and snow hat with twiggy trees and a snowman in the background...I get a little irritated. Not a lot irritated. Just a little. Why is it so mandated that we hammer home the New England bias? Must we forever be in discord with what our actual surroundings present to us? I'm all for learning about how things are in other places, but SHEESH!


Yara said...

You mean the colored leafs & need for mittens is REAL in some places? I thought it was all make believe ; )

You know, this year is the first time my kids understood why they call it 'fall'
There are some trees with changing leaves (thought they are all brown, no yellow or orange or red) and our yard gets lightly covered in leaves.

As for the snow, we try to do a day trip to Big Bear every winter.

Also, even within California the weather differs greatly! They have seasons in Northern California... or so my cousins say ; )
And the heat & cold is almost never as drastic near the beach as it is inland... but still, I wouldn't trade Cali weather for (almost) anything!

Anonymous said...

Here's a jumble of thoughts. See it's all about image. The image of Santa and a surf board doesn't work for me. I see a sleigh not a bike. I do have twiggy trees because I don't water them. Give me images of mittens and snowmen and reindeer tromping on my roof. Reading and drawing the weather elsewhere is great. Unlike those unlucky New Englanders you can take your kids to the snow instead of digging out of it. Wheeee!! We talk dry heat, they talk snow's not bad because it doesn't stick. I believe the true Southern Californian should think of seasons as lasting oh maybe a week. This gives me plenty of time to enjoy the moment without dwelling on it. We are natives. We know what we have. We just sometimes take it for granted. :)ma-ma-in-la