Summer solstice solitude

I am typing this post on the longest day of the year: here in Seattle, the sun rose at 5:11 am this morning and won’t set until 9:11 pm tonight, a whopping 16 hours of light, actually more, considering that the darkness dissipates some time before the sun rises and then light lingers for a while after sunset. All these hours of daylight make me feel like there is so much more time in one 24-hour day, and even if I don’t end up doing all that much with these “extra” hours, the day still feels extravagantly, bountifully long. Living so far up north has its drawbacks, but I wouldn’t trade this abundance of summer daylight for anything. It makes trudging through the winter darkness all worth it.

The house is very quiet, a stark contrast to one week ago, when my husband and I were hosting his cousins, who were visiting from out of the country. Now the three of them, plus my father-in-law, who arrived earlier this week, are all gone, driving almost the entire length of the West Coast with the dual purpose of sight-seeing and dropping P’s cousins off in LA, where they will catch their return flight back home. They are currently exploring the Bay Area, and “walking” down (and up) San Francisco’s streets with them via Google Maps’ Street View is bringing back wonderful memories. I’ve been to San Francisco three times, once before I met P and twice together with him, and loved the city and the surrounding areas (Berkeley! Napa! Sonoma!) on each and every visit.

I have to admit that sometimes, when I contemplate our plans to leave Seattle, the Bay Area sounds very appealing, more so than the Methow. Living in a small town somewhere off Highway 101, close to the Pacific, within, say, an hour’s or an hour and half’s drive from San Francisco would be pretty awesome… Even though I didn’t grow up near the ocean – or any kind of water, really, except an urban river that I hardly ever saw and never paid much attention to – I’ve grown to love the ocean and will definitely miss it if we end up moving far away from it. Also, when it’s February or March in Seattle and the rain and grayness JUST. WON’T. END., California sounds pretty tempting. Plus, the mild climate means a longer growing season, which would come in really handy for people like us who would like to grow most of our food. I remember visiting friends in Berkeley one April a couple years ago and, to my great envy, finding their little backyard garden full of peas, kale, and chard, with more deliciousness on the way, while our P-Patch plot back home was still the territory of slugs, weeds sprouting from soggy, compacted soil, and a few sad-looking plants that had accidentally overwintered and were still dormant, undecided about whether to wake up and give spring a shot, or give up out of sheer exhaustion.

California, however – at least the Bay Area – appears to have three major downsides for us: 1) High real estate prices, 2) Traffic, and 3) Lack of four distinct seasons. The first two points are pretty obvious and well-known, and while the third one is also obvious and well-known, I feel like it merits an explanation, particularly in light of what I just said about the benefits of a lengthy warm weather season. We really miss living through a real winter each year, the feeling of frosty air on our cheeks, the sight of snowflakes falling outside the window, the sound of snow crunching under our boots. Here in Seattle, it only snows once or twice during a typical winter, and the snow doesn’t stick around longer than overnight, but at least we are within an hour’s driving distance from the Cascades, with all the snow and cold we could ever wish for between November and March or even April. If we moved any farther south, we wouldn’t have this opportunity. What’s great about the Methow is that it does have a real winter, with daytime temperatures below freezing a couple months a year and a decent amount of snow on the ground.

The pull of California is hard to resist, however… While it is unlikely that we will ever move there, I foresee lots of road trips down the coast that we’ve fallen in love with as well as into the eastern, Sierra Nevada-dominated side of the state, an area where we’ve never been but which is on my personal must-see list. California is also where my parents currently live – but that is a topic for another post, many posts, in fact…

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