Notes from The Buffer Zone: The Importance of Weather

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I grew up in the American Midwest. In northern Wisconsin, to be precise, where the tip of Lake Superior touches both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Most of my weather memories of those years are of severe cold and deep snow. The time our house got buried after a blizzard, and we had to exit from my upstairs bedroom window over the garage. (My father shoveled off the garage roof that night because the garage roof, weirdly, was flat.) The time one of my casual friends’ mascara-covered eyelashes froze shut after about thirty seconds outside. The time my own contacts fogged up on the 10-foot walk from the car to the high school door.

All of that was normal, if inconvenient. Then I moved to Madison, in the southern part of the state, and experienced actual summers of 90+ degrees with no air conditioning—and I got used to it. I loved it, because I had been so cold for so long.

A move to Oregon taught me about microclimates. The weather report in Eugene, where I moved first, went on for about five minutes, as the announcer listed the weather for the Cascades (mountains), the valley, Southern Oregon, the Siskiyous (mountains), the coastal mountains, the coast, and the city itself. I spent the first year in Oregon trying to figure out which weather report applied to me. (Yes, this was pre-internet.)

Then a move to the Oregon coast where the weather was mostly consistent, at least temperature-wise. A lot of rain, yes, and serious storms in the winter, and fog, but the temperatures mostly stayed between 45 and 70—the hottest place in Oregon in the winter and the coolest in the summer.


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