wonder, and adapting to a winter clime

It’s snowing and the sky is luminous.

The night air is cold, but bearable, and soft to breathe. It’s not the now-rare sharpness of my childhood crisp winter mornings in the Valley. No, this snowy air is gentle.

This is the first time I’ve lived in place where snow isn’t a once-maybe-twice-in-a-decade occurrence. Sure, it’s not the Midwest, much less Canada, but for my central California-bred sensibilities, it’s a wonder nonetheless.

It’s snowing and the sky is luminous.

I took the bus to get to school yesterday, although I probably could have taken my car. It was snow showers in the morning, you see, and I’ve never driven in snow. By the time class was over, it was just rain. Getting home took ages, as I navigated TriMet.

But come the morning… oh, I won’t drive. There’s real snow out, and there are hills between me and campus. I’ll take another bus, and get there all the same. Let someone else worry about traction.

It’s snowing and the sky is luminous.

I’ve got blankets and sweaters, and good boots to keep me dry. I’ve scarves, and gloves, and even earmuffs, somewhere. Two wool coats, and a mackintosh I bought in New York. It’s not really that much colder than back home, just wetter. I’m okay with walking around with an umbrella. At some point, I’ll invest in Gore-tex.

For now, it’s still a pleasure to come in from the cold and be warm.

Walking along Portland’s streets, I realize how much a Californian, a San Franciscan, I am. The other day, I passed in front of a woman as I turned a corner and sped up. I cleared her by a good three feet or more. By my lights (that is, as someone used to living in a dense city), it was the polite thing to do: hurry up and get out the way–we’ve both got places to be and no time for acknowledgments if we don’t get in one another’s ways. But she grumbled, loudly, and so I slowed down, smiled, and exerted some charm. She was happy after that.

This morning as I waited for the bus, a woman at the stop started a conversation with me. It was momentarily startling, but nice. I’m always surprised when people chat in lines. Pleasantly, but surprised.

It makes me empathize with New Yorkers, and I wonder how long it’s going to take for me to acclimate to the idea that politely ignoring people (so long as you aren’t in the way and vice versa) isn’t polite here. I mean, people make eye contact and smile here.

What’s up with that?

It’s going to take me a while to start to really like it, much less do it automatically.

And a random observation, because it’s been on my mind: Portlanders are shorter than I expected. In San Francisco, I feel like I’m average height because there are lots of tall people and lots of short people, so I just fall in the mathematical middle. Whereas in Portland, there’s a bell curve, and I’m in the middle bunch. There are a lot of shortish (and bearded) men here. So much so that I sometimes expect to see Gimli when I turn a corner.

Still, all that said, I’m liking this place. I’ve still got boxes to unpack and a city to learn, but it’s lovely and the people are friendly.

More, it’s snowing and the sky is luminous.

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