As it approaches the middle of May in Iowa, I find myself turning to the topic of weather. As a bit of background, I will reveal that it is not in my cellular makeup to tolerate extreme climates. That is, I only feel comfortable when it’s between 68 and 74 degrees outside, sunny and with a slight breeze blowing, though it doesn’t seem to matter from which direction the wind blows. It’s not that I’m high maintenance; I grew up in San Diego.
While my forefathers survived and even multiplied in harsh climes, such as the Arabian desert and the icy conditions of Eastern Europe and Russia, it seems as if their abilities to tolerate and thrive in adverse conditions was a recessive trait. I inherited a trait that adapted over the course of just one generation: the nice weather gene.
So, it came as quite a shock when, after being in Iowa for just a few days, the temperature climbed to the 80s in July with about 80 percent humidity. So the heat index—whatever that means—was way beyond my comfort zone. Add to that thunderstorms that bring the rain down so hard it sounds like hail and sends small rivers gushing down the sidewalks, and air so thick when the rain stops 10 minutes later that it actually feels like you could slice it with a machete.
I’ve got three years of extreme weather under my belt now. I’ve lived through sub-zero winters, where the wind whips literally right through you and threatens to burn your skin off (that’s ice burn). I’ve lived through sweltering summers where even at midnight the temeprature hovers at around 80 degrees. Yet, even with all of my newfound climate experience, I can’t seem to get used to all the variation. The extremes. The horrible, miserable, intolerable Iowa weather.
I try. I do. It has been part of my Embrace Iowa campaign of the late 2000s. I enjoy the 12 perfect days a year to the fullest. The rest of the time I am shedding or adding layers of clothing or adjusting the thermostat and wondering why the he** anyone still lives here.
To answer that question I turn to my native Midwesterner friends. Sometimes their answers involve their desires to be close to friends and family (leaving weather completely out of the equation). Other times they reply that the Midwest feels like home. One friend told me she doesn’t like the people in warm weather states. It’s not the people to be concerned about it, I replied in my head, it’s the weather.
And so, when a friend from northern Minnesota recently accepted a job in northern Maine it really caused me to step back and ask: Would you miss the cold if you took a bold step and moved someplace warm?
After I posed this question to a dear friend living in Duluth (northern Minnesota), she confirmed my suspicions. She said people who live in cold weather feel as if something would be missing if they did not experience the bone-shivering winter frigidness each year. To me it seems like self-inflicted torture. Why not move to Siberia?
So I am now concluding that one’s weather tolerance resides in one’s genetic makeup. Genes mutate and adapt to whatever situation that makes your body thrive. It’s truly a Darwinian process, though I have no actual research to back this up. My genes tell me to live in Southern California. Yet I wonder if they are slowly adapting to the too hot and too cold weather here in my current climate zone. Perhaps. Or perhaps they are begining a sort of mutiny that will force me to relocate to warmer climes.
Until then, I will be content to think that living like this builds character. And I am in the midst of building a really interesting character.