Spring has sprung
The grass is ‘riz
I wonder where the flowers is…
It’s safe to say that once temperatures hit 90 degrees, spring has hit the Big Country, or at least whatever bit of spring we end up with. As any West Texan with a sense of humor (or perhaps cynicism) will tell you, the four seasons of West Texas include Pre-Summer, Summer, Post-Summer, and Christmas. “Pre-Summer,” the season we’re entering into now, is known for its shorter, less intense bursts of summer heat coupled with the few remaining breaths of the strong “Post-Summer” winds.
This time, many Abilenians are welcoming the coming of Pre-Summer due to a longer, harsher “Christmas” weather season than in recent memory. For nearly a week, Abilene was covered in a thick shell of ice in what many have dubbed, “The Snowpocalypse.” But even in the depths of Christmas, West Texas weather never ceases to amaze. Both the week before and after the Snowpocalypse, high temperatures in the lower 80s were recorded, as the ice tried to thaw, then tried to re-freeze, then finally thawed. This strange temperature zig-zag is nothing new to residents of the Big Country, however. Another West Texas anecdote is that if you don’t like the current weather conditions, wait about five minutes. When I mention this oft-quoted saying, many people tell me, “Oh, that happens everywhere!” It’s clear to me that these people have never been to the southeast region of Louisiana.
Before my time in Abilene I used to live in the New Orleans suburb of Chalmette, Louisiana. It’s a small refinery town located about 6 miles east of the crescent city, and just barely 3 feet above sea level. It was the site of the famous “Battle of New Orleans,” where American forces dealt the final blow to the invading British army in the War of 1812. (The war had actually ended a month earlier when the Treaty of Ghent was signed, but that news didn’t make it to them until a month after this battle. Now, aren’t you glad we have Twitter?) Chalmette is also (in)conveniently located by the Gulf of Mexico and near the mouth of the Mississippi River. When Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the town was all but destroyed by what some eyewitnesses described as a tsunami-like deluge of floodwater. But Chalmatians are tough, and the town is coming back. In five years many of the businesses have reopened, and its streets were home to many Mardi Gras parades this past carnival season.
Natural disasters aside, our location bordering on two bodies of water means one thing weather wise: humidity. We got a lot of rain and when it wasn’t raining it was still incredibly humid. We have much less of a winter than Abilene. The winter before Katrina was the first snow we had in over a decade. There’s even less of a difference between seasons. Also, unlike Abilene’s swinging weather vane, Mother Nature made it clear by 10 AM what the weather was going to be like for the rest of the day. If it was going to be a hot, sticky summer’s day, you felt the sweat pouring down on the back of your neck by mid-morning. If it was going to be a gloomy rainy day, it was all coming down well before lunch. If it was going to be just plain cold… you get the idea. That’s not to say we didn’t have an unpredictable summer rain in the middle of a clear day every once in a while, but it wasn’t nearly as sporadic as pouring rain one hour, sunny sky the next as I’ve personally observed many times in Abilene.
But they say variety is the spice of life, and many people like it just fine when the weather can change at the drop of a hat, while others prefer if they can easily plan their day based on the current midmorning conditions. Northerners may have thought Abilene’s “Snowpocalypse” this past season was nothing special, while many Chalmatians like myself jump at any chance to experience even a slight bit of snow. Each area’s climate is unique and has its upsides and downsides. Some people pack up and move if they don’t like a town’s climate. But speaking as someone who’s lived through contrasting climates, I feel you ultimately learn to enjoy the weather you live in. You bloom where you’re planted, or transplanted as the case may be. I’d be okay moving back to a place like Chalmette one day even knowing first hand what nature can do to you in a place like that. In many cases it’s a number of other factors that keep us in a certain place, such as people we know, or memories we’ve had. In my opinion, the weather is merely the backdrop in front of which our lives take place, and sometimes the set designer can’t make up his mind!