Upside Down Thinking

We’re in the process of inverting, all of our thought processes. Summer-in-South-Texas is to be approached in about the same way that a hater-of-cold would approach winter-in-Wisconsin. You really do have to think differently on a calendar level.

All my life I’ve looked at November & December as the time when I started doing less stuff outside and made plans to hibernate for the winter.  Now I’m trying to wrap my head around preparing to hibernate in June but for the opposite reason:  it’s too darn hot to do much of anything!

This is not by way of complaint; it’s about the way humans live with multiple cycles — some short like the times we have meals during the day, or the days that we go to work during the week.  We have monthly cycles involving rent and utility payments.  There are yearly cycles involving holidays and such.

The view from the International Bridge in Roma TX

But of those cycles there aren’t many that we can arbitrarily invert for any reason.  The utility company still wants it’s timely payment, no one else is going to celebrate Christmas in June and friends will be completely flummoxed if you send their birthday card 6 months away from the “correct date.”

I’ve been wanting to go to the Roma World Birding Center since we arrived last November and we haven’t made it yet.  Sunday morning I started thinking about making the trip then, but the forecast was for 96º and I gave that idea the heave-ho until it cools off a bit — to say nothing of it being a better idea to visit in the fall/winter when the birds are migrating, not now, when they are mostly absent!

I find myself thinking more and more about the seasons now that we are more stationary.  5 1/2 years in the motorhome was long enough that we had kind of gotten accustomed to perpetual summer — but not a S. Texas Summer.  Early on in our travels I blogged about finding places that kept our thermometer in the comfort zone — away from the extremes of temperature at either end of the scale.

Now that we are contemplating life in two places, or life in one place we know that luxury of moderate temperatures is over.  Whether we decide on some place up north for the summer, or decide to stay here year round — either way we have to start thinking about living seasonally in stationary places.

I was bobbing around in the pool yesterday contemplating how ingrained these sort of ideas can be.  There are some things you do during the summer, and other things that you do during the winter. What those things are can be partially determined by what you are accustomed to, of that I’m sure. Last summer the RV park paid to have the pool drained and the bottom resurfaced.  A crew of several young men worked in +100º heat and under direct sun scraping down the bottom of the pool.  Had I tried to do that I’d be writing from my grave today.  But they are young, I’m sure some if not all of them have been lifelong residents of the area and the heat here is something they are accustomed to.  And they are young.  Did I mention that they were young? 🙂

Activities like birding are a bit different.  It’s self evident that you have to go birding when the birds are present.  That often involves the edges of the seasons.  Migrations start early and overlap our “human” sense of seasons.

I myself have been out in the frosty mornings at Bosque del Apache watching Sandhill Cranes freeze their feet off wading overnight in water with a layer of ice on it.

Personally, though, I’ve don’t remember being in a situation before where I consciously had to think about what not to do because of weather at the wrong time of the year.  To me, summer has always been idyllic.  It has always been a ‘fantasy.’  Now that I start to think of “summer” as a beast, or the enemy it just feels weird.

Please remember — I’m not entirely serious here.  I’m trying to have fun about the fact that we are gradually learning to think differently about what to do, and when.  And I’m learning-as-we-go to appreciate the systems within the human mind that creates concepts of safety and convenience and comfort.

We do not always find the same things “comfortable.”  When we moved into this house our neighbor told us they set their thermostat to 76º and never touch it.  I thought that was interesting and I tried it.  I found that while the idea sounds good, that in fact that same temperature 24 hours a day is not comfortable.  Whether it’s the temperature or our a/c that temperature in the middle of the day seems too cold and in the middle of the night it seems too hot.  Moreover, when we lived in Milwaukee we would set the thermostat for cooling to 82º — but here that same temperature seems much too hot.  One could say it’s a fault of the heating system — perhaps the temps aren’t equal throughout the house — but I know that not to be the case having a couple thermometers spread around the place.   The thought being that our perception is subjective.  We base what we sense not only upon hard facts, but also upon how we feel — how we feel physically (health and wellbeing), how we feel emotionally (Do we like air conditioning?  Do we wish were doing something else?), our diurnal/noturnal cycles, etc.  If I step outside in the afternoon it feels hot, but not nearly as hot as if we were in Wisconsin — and as soon as the breeze starts to blow it’s suddenly much cooler — though in fact it’s not cooler at all.

I’m having fun with this.  For once in my life I’m not preoccupied with a job, or with having to make plans to be some place on a certain date and my mind if free to think and to be amazed.

The other day I was doing something outside and the trees were blowing in the breeze; branches moving about quite briskly.  I thought to myself that I have never seen a bird MISS the branch it was trying to light upon — no matter how brisk the wind might be. I know there’s that old saying about birds not being afraid to light on a tiny branch, not because they have confidence in the branch, but because they have confidence in their ability to fly.  But this thing about never missing the branch, never misjudging where one’s feet should be at the time they close their claws/talons — that’s actually quite an elegant thing.

Spoonbill landing on a branch — just the moment before touchdown!

We will get to Roma Bluff and the World Birding Center there — eventually.  I’m sure we’ll  visit most if not all of the local nature attractions in the area over time.  And some of the touristy ones too.  But I don’t think our schedule we be the same as if we were living in Wisconsin!  We made a trip to South Padre Island over the weekend and now that we are into the month of June I think we can say that was our first visit there during their high season.  There was more traffic, more people, more boats, more fishermen, more everything than we’ve seen thus far in our stay here.  Clearly, “vacation season” is just as precious here as it is in Wisconsin.  “The Island” is all about water sports and water activities and who would not agree that being in the water when the temps are skirting 100º is not fun.  For vacationers, particularly young families, this is the best time of the year. Kids, certainly, don’t mind the heat.  We had a few young folks in the pool here at the RV resort and they couldn’t have been happier.  Some of us not-so-young have to be a bit careful about extremes of heat so at the same time the kids were splashing and having a blast I suspect that one or two of the folks in the water alongside them were just happy to be cool and quiet.

There are all sorts of cycles in life.  We are learning to adjust our sense of cycle to the present surroundings.  If we ultimately choose to make this a 6 month per year home that means we’ll have to re-think our sense of cycles yet again.  Which is ok — that’s what life is about.  It’s part of the unscriptedness that life throws at us.  Cycles and changes.  They are inevitable.  What we make of them is up to us.  We can fight them or go along.  Fighting factors as great as climate can get us into trouble — or get us dead — more than a few hikers have ended their lives because they failed to talk along enough water on a hike, and more than a few snowmobilers have frozen to death because they didn’t dress warm enough for the weather. But many of the cycles and changes in life aren’t as crucial — they just determine whether we enjoy our life or struggle through it.

I’m all in favor of enjoying, and I don’t much care for struggling when it’s an option — so I’m voting for adjusting!





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