Weather is one of the things I love most about New York and miss most about Oklahoma. With the whole city in a state of perpetual deep freeze, I’ve been thinking a lot about bad weather and missing home. Here’s the thing: Today, the high temperature in Oklahoma City is only 18 degrees, which is exactly the same as the forecast here in New York. BUT the high tomorrow in Oklahoma is 61. New York City? A balmy 30 followed my more highs in the teens.
Not only does Oklahoma’s schizophrenic weather appeal to my love of chaos, it offers reprieve. I don’t mind being cold so much as I mind staying cold. I need a few decent days every so often that I can plan my week around, especially in a city where everything is done on foot. Last winter’s long, slow slog toward spring nearly killed me. I wanted to scream, It’s March and I’ve already put up with your crap for four months—where’s the freak, 80-degree Tuesday you owe me?! Were I on my native soil, that Tuesday would be my birthright.
On the other hand, our first year in New York was, hands-down, the most glorious year of weather I have ever experienced. I was suspended in a state of constant gratitude and simultaneous anger, having seen for the first time how the other half lives. A warm and vibrant autumn faded slowly into a mild winter with only a handful of days below freezing and a couple pretty snowfalls. In summer, temperatures hovered in the 80s and low 90s, the grass stayed green and rain was so plentiful that flowers I would never have attempted back home—delicate foxgloves and hydrangea—grew in sidewalk planters. The fact that no one found it exceptional angered me. These people have so much.
My gratitude and anger was really the product of a kind of post-traumatic stress. During the last 18 months or so that we lived in Oklahoma, an ice storm followed by a wind storm brought down a massive tree in our yard; our home fell victim to a freak, “500-year” flood and my car was pummeled by softball-size hail, something I didn’t truly believe existed until I saw it with my own eyes. Back-to-back blizzards trapped me in my house for about a week, and on at least two occasions, tornadoes touched down less than two miles from our house. I helped a colleague harvest his garlic after a tornado leveled his home, and another person I knew died when a fast-moving, drought-fueled wildfire engulfed her house. I lost track of the times I received a letter in the mail stating that I lived in a federal disaster zone (although no letter came the one time we actually needed assistance.) The summer before we left, Oklahoma City experienced a record-shattering 63 days of 100+-degree temperatures. Even the lows were hot. The heat was the last straw, sucking the joy out of our final days at home and creating a new form of cabin fever in which even the traditional foods of summer were no comfort because it was too dry to safely grill, tomato blossoms couldn’t set and watermelons shriveled on the vine.
When people say there is no bad weather, only bad clothing, I ask how one should dress for 110 degrees or softball-size hail. The answers is, you don’t—you just hunker down and wait for your beautiful Tuesday to arrive.