The Apprentice

I'll begin by saying that I would rather live in Seattle than anywhere else in the world. OK?

That said, I'll try to put into words how it feels to be of Mediterranean descent, both of genes and mind, while wearing fleece pajamas, heat turned up, cat refusing to go outside. In May.

My neighbor describes spring as a band warming up. A band that won't play until July, takes a break mid-August and leaves stage for good in mid-September. "And with El NiƱo," she says, "temperatures are warmer in February than we can expect from May."

But when she adds we're due for a wetter-than-normal summer, an urge to weep sweeps over me, making even the smallest appreciation of gray skies, or her for that matter, utterly impossible.

I'm sure you're wondering why I stay in a place with such a short-lasting summer, the same question I've asked myself for the past 20 years soon as August fades. Is it the richness that follows the rain, so immensely beautiful I can hardly believe my eyes? Or have I integrated with the words gurus recite: that the one thing that annoys us most is the one thing we most require?

Because nothing keeps me writing like sky dark as my eyes and hair. The moist smell of grass renewing its roots is the tendon that connects me to my work, that takes me seriously apart as I dig in toward the center of my life a word at a time.

Whereas if sun shines, I'm likely to be miles from home on my bicycle, immersed in the holiest of holy sunlit greens that is everywhere and everything around me.

Each fall, say, five minutes into October as my mood dips, I make a conscious effort not to bore my friends with "weather-whining." Still, it's in the air, let me tell you, it's in the air. When skies refuse to lighten for days on end, the groove between my eyebrows deepens, the physical effect of gray on my emotions when what I'm feeling gets stuck between my eyes.

And sometimes I'm so far on the other side of glad to hear that more rain is predicted that I'm reminded no matter how many years I live in the Northwest, I'll always be an apprentice, never as rooted as my friend who calls herself a B&R (born and raised), the distance between our weather preferences insurmountably vast.

How we differ, she and I. She views the gray weight of sky as a recipe for cozy. And while she con-siders the cost of water a necessity for lawn maintenance, watering her summer grass until it's a putting green of perfection, I would no more spend money on irrigating than I would on the Cartharts she wears. If we walk under a sky fueled with warmth, she stares upward at clouds peeled back, the look in her eyes as if she doesn't remember how soon squalls will saturate the coastal bluffs that hold up our city till we fear they may slide like quicksand into the jaw of March sea. She goes after dandelions as if by gunpoint; I add them to salads.

Still, in her company, I hold on to every syllable of Northwest-ness, as if I'm part of her privileged group. If not by understanding at least looking as if I understand because, unlike my desire for blue above, she longs for turbulence. And I long for a friend just like her.

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