20 December 2017

On The Seasons Needing Me More Than I Need Them

If Southern California is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for newcomers, it is hated-until-proven-loved for those who have never actually been here, the latter condition being both cause and effect of some curious and uniquely wayward folk wisdom. To wit, both immediately before and immediately after my relocation, a few ostensibly thoughtful Minneapolitans raised the possibility that I would “miss the seasons” living in a place which, as far as they were concerned, didn't have any.

Given that the only Minnesota season anyone could miss is the fall (and that Minnesotans spend pretty much the entire year missing it), I was not particularly strongly inclined to heed this warning. In fact it was unclear whether it was indeed to be parsed as a warning or just a theory; ergo, I parse it as a projection. The implication that seasons give requisite shape to life and that the quadripartite structure peculiar to the North is somehow inherently salutary in this way certainly betokens a degree of exceptionalism worthy of a much larger city.

Since moving to California I have given thought to the season question every year around this time; that is, when the weather changes. If we are lucky enough to be rained on in any significant amount over the next several months, that will likely cue more of the same thoughts. And certainly whenever the next bonafide heat wave strikes, exaggerating as it surely will the endtimes vibe one often detects here during times of duress and sometimes just because, I will surely be given yet further occasion to ponder the contour that these changes in the weather do give to my year, subtle as that contour is to the point being undetectable by the freshly uprooted Midwestern soma. Because I am imperfect and petty, I will probably also have a private chuckle vis-a-vis the combination of clouded judgment and reliance on outsider mythmaking through which projected jealousy is most facilely projected. But above all, I will most definitely give thanks for the way a subtler seasonal profile works it’s magic without being so damn disruptive.

In cold-weather locales of the post-Christian world, the disruptions tend to come in waves this time of year, so much so that their long-awaited clearing up itself becomes disruptive whenever it finally takes hold. As perhaps you could have guessed from the tone here, this is a roller coaster ride that I never tolerated well or willingly. The just-noticeable contours of Southern California living are far better suited to the purposes of those of us who prefer (nay, require) the open-endedness of slow, steady, incremental, but always-ongoing progress in our life’s work. Think gentle undulations rather than jagged, disorienting tremors, the climatological analog of the work profile you've never stopped thanking your music teachers for instilling in you.

Among those slower-idling Midwesterners who have ventured far enough afield to speak with some empirical authority, terms like "intense," "incessant," and "rat race" are customarily applied to the bigger fish bowls. Somehow I have still never been to New York City and hence know it only the way so many outsiders know Los Angeles, but through many friends' anecdotes communicated to me over the years I have indeed formed an image of it not only as the music capital of the world but also as the world capital of disruptions. As the folk wisdom would have it, some people thrive in such an environment and others wilt, and this is part and parcel of that famous New York exceptionalism that both Midwesterners and Californians know well whether or not they've visited: The City as crucible. Of course New York also has both its cold weather and its holidays, and more (in)famous conflagrations of the two than most anywhere else, but the master narrative I've been lead to construct would simply fold those more parochial concerns into one giant disruption, the proverbial jackhammer at 3am that I might literally have heard about a dozen times at this point.

A hundred years ago Southern California was declared "enervating" by faster-idling newcomers from the east. Out here, that which is incessant is thought to have quite the opposite effect of an early morning construction crew: sunshine, warmth, beaches, scantily clad young things, and so on, a panoply of luxuries thought perfectly designed to numb even the most ambitious among us into complacency. Hence a former colleague of my father's is said to have once turned down a job offer from an institution in San Diego on the grounds that he would never get anything done there. One can only hope, for his sake, that this gentleman was speaking from a place of great self-knowledge and not from the same place of ignorance that so many other outsiders do. For my part I must confess skepticism that the particular diversions San Diego of all places offers up could keep someone who is just that committed to scholarship entertained for more than a day or two. In any case, that is about the longest I ever need to be entertained before going back down the rabbit hole; hence all such questions of how to take a vacation when you already live in a vacation spot, of the ongoing temptation of such amenities on a day-to-day basis, all those questions are moot to me. More importantly, the longer, more comprehensive interruptions occasioned by Seasonal Affective Disorder, Spring Fever, and the like are no longer acceptable to me simply as the cost of doing business.

I for one have found Los Angeles to provide a healthy balance of ass-kicking mishaps and creature comforts. It periodically reminds you that you're alive while actually permitting you to enjoy it on occasion. If there is indeed some hard-wired need for seasonal contour, I have to think that we acclimate to the scale of change just as we acclimate to more obvious swings in temperature. Taken together, those two things solve the imagined problem quite parsimoniously indeed.

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