Enter The Sun–Exit High Fashion

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, May 21, 2008

As I write this, our area is enjoying an uncharacteristically warm day in May. And we are celebrating the sun as rainy weather traditionalists usually do: with everything we’ve got—including wearing clothes that usually see the light of day only a few brief months out of every year.

When our Pacific Northwestern days turn suddenly sunny after a grey winter and wet spring, many of us celebrate these warmish days with the fashion awareness of a chimpanzee. I have to admit, this is fun to watch.

Clothing that would be considered a mistake anywhere else at any other time of the year is fair game to us when the weather blooms. Anything goes, like at the beach or any Disney resort.

Fleshy, white limbs are everywhere. We turn into bold fashionistas—women in halter-tops, and men wearing shorts and sandals with black socks. Clothes that were too tight last year are the same this year—and somehow, it doesn’t matter. Bring on the cabana wear!

We Washingtonians take a hot day like this and use it as an opportunity to show skin because we don’t know when it will ever happen again. It makes no difference to us that most of the rest of the world, including our friends in Eastern Washington, would consider it a little chilly.

The smell of burning ribs on the grill permeates housing developments. Neighbors meet at fences to chat. Moody teenagers in flip-flops wander the streets. The sounds of lawn mowers and playing children are everywhere.

Then, when the mercury rises a little too high for us, we get kind of whiney. One Seattle radio announcer consoled listeners this week by noting that it would soon be evening, cooling things off. In the absence of meteorological perfection, we wait for sundown.

When our family moved to Virginia in August of 1988, I remember waking up to the sun every day and expecting it to somehow dissolve into rain and fog. There were no parties for beautiful weather there because every day was a warm one.

But a day like this in the Pacific Northwest is not like a day anywhere else. It approaches transcendence, and we know how to appreciate a turn of good weather.

Our humidity is low, or at least bearable, the sky is blue, and the temperature is warm, but usually mild. We don’t have to scan the horizon for tornadoes or worry about the threat of afternoon thunderstorms and flash flooding. And don’t forget Mt. Baker’s snowy presence in the background.

Have you ever been on a flight from the East coast bound for Seattle in the summer? Well, I have. Boarding a plane in Washington, DC was a relief because it meant getting out of the muggy slog that settles into that part of the country. Finally stepping outside at SeaTac and taking a deep breath of clear, cool air was like being given permission to breathe again.

Soon enough we’ll be back to the rainy grey. So, I say OK—put on those shorts, show off those sunburned shoulders, wear your swim trunks to the grocery store, pull on those jams you haven’t worn since 1987!

I’m happy to live in a place where convention occasionally gives way to playfulness and even in some cases, poor taste, because it means we intend to celebrate the sun.

We may not always do it in style, but like I said, it’s fun to watch.


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