True to the MO of winter thaw, winter has returned to the Northwest. Moreover, the winter of this week has been reminiscent of the Chicago winters I left behind when I moved here. Temperatures have delved past the 30s and 20s and even dipped into the teens at night. I having been hoping that the the newly-sprouted daffodil shoots wouldn’t freeze. Somehow, I think they’ll be fine; they are hardy plants.
Combining with the cold this week has been an always unwelcomed winter guest, wind. I’ve never been adverse to the Midwestern cold and snow. In fact, I love those aspects of the season. Cold air is crisp and clears the mind of the cobwebs that accumulate during pleasant weather. Wind, however, is a different story. It is malicious. It gets through all of your layers, which Northwesterners know all about, of course, and chills your very core.
Furthermore, cities do strange things to wind. Out in the rural open, the wind is a constant assault from one general direction. You can take precautions. In the city, though, buildings and structures bend and channel the wind. It swirls and dances and whistles eerily through the physical urban structure as if to announce the Grim Reaper’s presence and his disregard for our modern infrastructural comforts. You may be walking down the street and, as you turn the corner, you get hit square on by a vicious gust. Alternatively, you are waiting at a bus stop and the winter wind comes screaming around the corner, gets in between your layers, and molests you with its icy fingers. At the very least, the rain usually cuts from one side; you can prepare for that. The unruly urban wind, on the other hand, pays no mind to niceties and manners.
The other week, I had caught a little case of the Bird Flu as I was taking pictures of ghost signs around the UW-Tacoma campus. The wind chilled my ears and I spent the following three days fortifying and doping my immune system with sleep and vitamin C as it fought off the ailment. Not wanting a repeat of the situation, I put on a knit headband to keep my ears warm the other day.
Perhaps bullied by the wind, normal humidity has evaporated this week. I recently plugged in and programmed my NOAA weather radio, so in addition to looking out at my outdoor thermometer every morning I have been listening to the latest weather while getting dressed. Additionally, I have installed a METAR parser script on this site’s sidebar to automatically retrieve and post current weather conditions. Thus, I have watched with amazement as the relative humidity hovered around 26% earlier in the week before it plummeted to 12% one evening.
My skin has always been sensitive to humidity, so this week’s weather had been particularly intriguing. During the Midwestern summers, the 200% humidity irritated my skin while the wintertime drought caused me to singlehandedly support the lotion industry. Moreso than the wind, I was quite happy to leave behind this moisture regime when I moved here and even happier that the situation was reversed. Thus, this week’s welcome cold was tempered by the accompanying, unwelcome dryness.
Capping off the appearance of Midwestern winter conditions has been the clear sky. I have talked about this week’s light with two friends on two separate occasions while running into them on the Ave. Interestingly, both conversations involved photography. The first conversation occurred as I ran into J. while I was shooting 35mm on the Ave. She was off to run errands and glowed about the fine light that we’ve been having. A few days later, I ran into Mr. Jarson, who shared with me his realization that this week’s soft light, which cast lovely pinkish hues on the buildings, was perfect for talking promotional photographs of campus buildings. To paraphrase: “what people don’t realize when they are looking at the beautiful pictures of campus architecture,” he pontificated, “is that it’s fucking cold outside” and that the photographer likely froze his/her fingers off.
We ducked into Chipotle so that he could pick up dinner. On the subsequent walk toward our respective homes, I held his ice-cold Coke because he wasn’t wearing any gloves.
This afternoon, the temperature broke and we were up into the 40s. On the other hand, my sidebar tells me that the humidity is still an alarmingly low 23%. I ought to issue a Chapstick and Lotion Advisory for the greater Seattle area.