And so I have come here to enact—not because I want to but because, once here, I cannot help it—the loneliness and the humbleness of my kind. I must see in my flimsy shelter, pitched here for two nights, the transience of capitols and cathedrals. In growing used to this place, I will have to accept a humbler and truer view of myself than I usually have.

– Wendell Berry, “An Entrance to the Woods”

Lately I have been reading a lot of nature writing for my American Renaissance class (Walden, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Into the Wild) and all this talk of outdoors/the pumpkin scented candle in my kitchen has made me really wish Los Angeles had seasons. I have been wearing sweaters and drinking hot tea at my house, but the fact that I usually have to strip down to a tank top and shorts to comfortably walk to class shatters any hope of maintaining the illusion that it’s actually getting colder outside. And this is discouraging not just because I love thick socks and rosy cheeks, but because I have begun to realize that the perpetual summer here actually changes the way I think about a lot of things.

Here in Los Angeles, I am constantly barefoot. I don’t think twice about stepping outside to grab the mail or chat with someone on the porch, and I never have to throw on a sweatshirt. At our house, we often leave our doors open, and even have a couch in our backyard. And while I really do appreciate such a seamless transition between outdoors and in, I think it’s only beautiful for a season. Nature feels too tame here.

And for some reason, this 80 degree weather makes me take everything just a little less seriously. I’m cheerful, but less thoughtful. I don’t have the spells of melancholy that dark afternoons in winter used to bring, but I am beginning to think that maybe a little melancholy never hurt anyone. There really is something to persevering through those wind-burned walks from the car, and about having to scrape your windshield free of ice before you can leave the house. It forces you to slow down and to submit, not unlike Berry’s experience of camping in the woods. Humility might not always involve that harmonious  “one with nature”-ness… maybe sometimes it involves that “I-can’t-feel-my-cheeks “-ness.

Plus, in Los Angeles, we don’t have to wait for anything. There isn’t any gray sludge along the curbs in January, so there is no green to look forward to in March. (Well, there is green in March, but we don’t look forward to it.) There’s no anticipation because there’s no change, and there’s not much to measure time by besides the academic year (although that will slowly start to change as I learn the rhythm of the church calendar…one thing I’m really looking forward to this semester). I haven’t quite figured out how these things affect me, but at the very least they make me less aware of my surroundings.

To be fair, it does get chilly at night during in December, and we do sort of have a rainy-ish season (which also means Chick-fil-a season, because they have a great rainy-day deal), but not much compared to the Midwest. Nothing like a tornado or some golf-ball sized hail to make you feel a little less self-important.

Advertisements