Spring seduction

For the last five years, I haven’t been so pleased with the magazines, catalogs, radio commercials and billboards I start to see this time of year.

I feel like I’m suddenly inundated with images of sun and fun come March. In the local alt-weekly newspaper, a search for weekend activities turns up advertisements for boating festivals and oceanside cabin rentals. Every March issue of every women’s magazine urges readers to start getting fit for bikini season, to pull out the tanning lotion and to run, not walk, to the nearest Old Navy and buy the entire spring collection.

When I lived in a beach town whose four seasons are spring, slightly-colder spring, summer and spring, I didn’t mind so much. But I live in the Northwest now, and I’d rather not be reminded that though it is past March 21 and thus technically springtime, real warm weather likely won’t be upon us for months to come.

Over the weekend and earlier this week, skies in Seattle were almost suspiciously perfect. Not a cloud hovered over Seattle Saturday, and Sunday morning and afternoon were decently clear before the rain moved in.  On Wednesday, the high temperature surpassed 60.  It was the kind of weather one might see in Santa Cruz, Calif., in the middle of spring.

But now, I feel as if I dreamed the whole thing. This morning I woke up to the same gray skies and lazy rain I saw last Friday, and the sun only peeked through for a couple of hours before it disappeared again. Now, the forecast calls for the same old dreary clouds and rain.

This kind of meteorological bait-and-switch is one of the few reasons I don’t like living in the Northwest. Friends and family who still live in California often ask me, “Don’t you get sick of the rain?” I don’t, as long as it’s moderate and fairly constant. The only time rain bothers me is when it abruptly halts a multi-day run of beautiful spring weather–especially come May or June, when we expect beautiful weather after so many months of rainfall but keep getting inundated with storms.

I have countless stories of wacky spring weather in the Northwest, and I’ve only lived in the Northwest for five years.

In May 2008, a chilly rainstorm in Eugene, Ore. yielded to a weekend of suffocatingly hot weather. On Saturday, as my still-damp umbrella hung on a coat rack, I tried to walk to the corner market and nearly fainted in the heat. My roommates and I tried to sleep on the lawn in front of our house because the night air was slightly cooler than the temperatures in our stuffy bedrooms. On Monday, we walked to class amid a downpour, clad in rainboots and coats.

It rained every day for weeks leading up to my graduation ceremonies last June, forcing families and graduates to consider wearing plastic ponchos at my department’s outdoor commencement. The clouds parted for two full days of 80-degree sunny weather, and suddenly wide-brimmed hats were more appropriate. The very minute all our parents waved goodbye and drove off, the rain returned.

I grew up with such consistent temperatures and conditions that I groaned inwardly every time an editor at the Santa Cruz Sentinel asked me to report on the weather during my internship there. (How many ways can I say “morning fog and afternoon sun; highs in the mid-60s,” I wondered?) Spring in Seattle is a completely different experience. In fact, the season between March and June shouldn’t be called “spring” in the Northwest; in these months, there are only short flirtations with sun sandwiched in between long spells of clouds and rain. A Northwest spring is simply a three-month tug-of-war between winter and summer.

It might sound hellish, but here’s the good news: summer eventually wins.

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Thoughts on graduation

When I graduated from the University of Oregon, I felt like I was on top of the world. Over the course of two days, I got praised endlessly. I got awards, certificates, honor cords, honorary pins and diplomas that finally recognized all those years of hard work. It was sunny, I was wearing a pretty dress, all my friends and family surrounded me and all I did was sit there and smile.

That’s all, just smile. I seemed unable to turn off the grin through both those days. Probably because I didn’t know what else to do. I’ve never received compliments well; I never figured out how to react or what to say, so I always just smiled and said “thank you” over and over.

Getting a compliment never felt right. To me it always seemed like the conversational version of a see-saw: while one person is doing all the work to pull the see-saw down, the other is just enjoying the ride to the top without pulling their weight. So when my advisor, a no-nonsense kind of guy who doesn’t do sappy, presented me with a journalism award along with a glowing laundry list of my merits, I felt like marching up to the podium to set the record straight and give him the partial credit he deserved for my accomplishments.

My point: the praise I received blinded my smiling self into forgetting just how hard I worked to earn it all. The awards and the graduation ceremonies boosted my ego but made me forget about my past work ethic. I forgot that, once college is over, we have to start all over again to prove we’re as great as our diplomas say we are. Sure, we got a degree. Sure, our grades were good and our teachers liked us and we held leadership positions in school organizations. But when our skills are put to the test in the workplace, will we deliver?

I’ve worked really, really hard this week to impress people—people whose journalistic background is awe-inspiring and totally intimidating. It’s been a challenge. But I’m glad my temporary graduation amnesia is gone and the work ethic is back.