Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fair Weather and Fireworks

You'll forgive the lack of a July 4th post, I hope, as I've only now come out from under the bed.  You'll say I'm not used to fireworks yet, just being back and right in the middle of fireworks season no less, and probably you'll be right, but mostly you'll be wrong.  Fireworks we had, in Astana, and quite spectacular they were.  The problem, and my reason for hiding, runs a bit deeper than that.

The weather has been fair these past few weeks, bordering on and running smack into foul. When it hasn't been sunny and warm, it's been not just rainy but downright tempestuous, with thunder, lightning, winds, hail and more. Soothsayers are calling for the apocalypse (again), and though I haven't expected to see ghastly men on horses and ghostly souls floating up to heaven with their worm-eaten corpses along for the ride, I have been waiting to turn on the news one of these days and find that California has finally fallen into the ocean, or that New York's been flooded for good (I don't watch the news, but if I did I'd decide not to just in order to avoid the risk).

And there are the days that the weather does cooperate.  And it's fireworks season. It wouldn't be so bad if it was only the professional fireworks shows that are sponsored by the local communities, businesses and whatnot.  But in America, of course, we're free to do anything we want up to and including buying illegal fireworks, lighting them off in our backyards, and unexpectedly taking out an eye, a hand, a tree, even our neighbor's garage. It's the unexpectedness of the fireworks that's had me hiding under the bed, and not just during the 4th. We're so patriotic around these parts that the fireworks started even before July did, with the last weekend in June leading up to the actual holiday and on into the next weekend. And then there are the leftover fireworks, the ones we frantically threw into a box and stashed in the garage because the police sirens that sounded far away at first suddenly seemed a hell of a lot closer and was that a flashing light I saw the next street over? So now it's the week after the 4th and we've all these fireworks just sitting around that'll never keep till next year so why not just light them up on a Wednesday night? It's been a gorgeous day, finally no rain, and I'm sure the neighbors won't mind.  And if anyone asks, it was just a drone.

So on the one day I finally come out from under my doorway (on an inner wall, far away from any gas lines, electrical outlets, and spontaneously combusting rhubarb chutney [no really, it's an actual news story, read it]) to enjoy the non-purgatorial weather the next thing I know a bottle rocket comes flying at my head from three houses over. And I thought I had enough trust issues with this weather! You see, it all started, well, about a year ago when I moved to Kazakhstan. The weather began as the typical springs I knew: blustery, rainy, sometimes cold, sometimes not. But when it started to get warm it just kept going and didn't seem as if it would ever stop. Fall came, or at least made an appearance before winter pushed it aside. I'm pretty sure winter was still there when I left, end of May. It sort of cohabitated with spring for a month or so, each vying to take control of the general weather pattern. And that was when my distrust of the weather began. And it hasn't gone away.

In those carefree days before I knew there could be any climate but Great Lakes-mediated temperate with a healthy dose of Western New York irascibility I went outside of a time without thinking about what I should wear. Except in the most dogged days of August the weather was rarely so warm that a minor wardrobe miscalculation could be a fatal mistake, and winter was, well, winter. You wore boots and a coat and made your mittens with you and knew as long as you didn't decide to take a nap in a snowdrift you were generally not going to become an icicle. Astana changed all that. Besides unbearably hot summers and murderously cold winters, the in-between-climes had one constantly scrambling for the right clothes, never knowing if the temperature in the morning would in any way resemble that of the same evening.

I began taking a sweater with me, even when the weather was predicted to be summery (summer, for home). I would sit in the sun waiting for the bus, sweating in my light jacket, and fear taking it off lest a late season squall would blow in and take half my fingers with it. I began not just to understand my local colleagues who always wore a sweater, even in summer, but to identify with them and to agree with them. I looked forward to returning to New York as an opportunity to enjoy the summer I missed last year. But I've found I can no longer trust the weather. Even a sunny morning has me looking for rain, and wondering whether I ought not bring a sweatshirt for a quick outing to the grocery store. No, I don't walk to the store anymore, or have to wait for the bus. But I'd hate to catch a chill between the car and the door.

So I think for now I'll just stay in my handy doorway, and wait out the worst of it. I've got a cardigan. Hopefully it doesn't flood.