Amanda and I had a fun time putting this post together. Enjoy!
Out-of-towners often complain about the amount of rain we get here in Ketchikan.
Some say that we get too much, that it’s too rainy, and there’s not enough sun. But for those of us who’ve lived here for a while, we’re used to it. We live in a rainforest, we get rain, we measure our rain by the foot –and we’re very proud of this fact.
We know how to dress for the rain. Rain boots and raincoats are a part of every closet here on the Island. From the littlest to the biggest, rain boots, and raincoats are a way of life here, and it’s how we roll.
Cold weather on the other hand, is not something we are cut out to handle. Nor is the sun. Both extremes cause even well seasoned folks to screech high-pitched noises and retreat to the safest corners of their house.
“What is this bright yellow ball in the sky? Surely the world must be ending!”
Another problem with these weather changes is that we have no idea how to dress for them. Hot and cold weather presents a challenge, to our otherwise, normal, wet culture and ways of life.
Extreme temperatures tend to bring out the best in all of us.
We have exactly two seasons in Ketchikan.
Or maybe three…no, four.
Mostly, the seasons go like this: Rain, Rain, More rain, lots of rain. When winter comes -we might see a little bit of snow, we get excited and don our best winter clothing, then run outside, play in the snow – and watch as it melts and turns to rain. But when a sudden cold snap hits? We are clueless. And cold. And well, not prepared. Anyone under the age 2 will have the best winter clothing. But anyone over this age is simply out of luck.
The other day we were driving to town, and I was watching all the people. It was an especially cold winter afternoon. But it was sunny, so people were obviously very confused. The variety of folks I saw was humorous. A man in a big fur coat resembling an Eskimo. With sunglasses. His lady friend, appeared to be wearing every item in her closet, complete with a bright red scarf, pink gloves, and a knit hat that was from last year.
I laughed as I saw the variety of people go by, slipping and sliding on the ice, with a sort of penguin walk – the combined clothing choices, as well as the ice wasn’t helping matters much. And then I stopped laughing and thought about what I was wearing. That morning I had layered on six of my thickest shirts. I ripped my coat trying to get it on because I had too many layers, and my hat was neon green.
The layering effect is common here. It’s really quite simple. You pull out all your clothes, and put them on in layers. Then you can adjust to the climate accordingly by removing a layer or three. You generally top this attire off with a rain jacket – since that’s the only coat you own, and wouldn’t be caught outside without a coat, no matter how many layers you are donning. Your gloves won’t match your scarf, and they probably won’t match each other either!
The other season we struggle with is summer. The one where that big yellow ball in the sky sends down rays of heat (or not, the mere sun is enough to make us think summer is here) and we panic. “WHAT SHALL WE WEAR!” While foreigners or transplants from the lower 48 are still bundled up in their matching winter gear, we tend to go a bit crazy when the sun comes out.
After hiding away for some time discussing quietly among ourselves just WHAT this thing called sun is, we decide to make the most of it. And break out our summer’s best. Usually this includes taking last year’s jeans that won’t make it another year, and recycling them into shorts by cutting them off, unevenly, somewhere around the knee area. We pull out worn out t-shirts with thin, stretched out material (perhaps they are stretched from being layered all winter long?) and pair these up with sandals, tank tops and tees. And of course, one thing you will see plenty of in the summer is lots of pasty white arms and legs.
The real reason we wear sunglasses in the summer is not to protect our eyes from the sun. Rather, it is to protect our eyes from the blinding white skin seen on so many locals. You can spot a local simply by their ‘tan lines’ or lack thereof. Sometimes the face and hands are tanned. But arms and legs are as white as can be.
When the sun comes out you see a completely different collection of people. People you may have never seen before. And it’s not that they are new people, it’s simply that you didn’t recognize them. Before now, you simply knew them as “Big coat” or “Purple scarf” but now, these people have names! And faces! They frolic along the rocky beaches, and sip lemonade from the stands. All while blinding others with their white skin, and wondering what they did to deserve weather such as this. Sun, sun, sun, and 50 degree weather, and with hardly a drop of rain in sight.
We’ll be wondering, “What will we do with ourselves when summer’s over?”
Wondering how we’ll go back to the normal rain, and forgetting that it’s the sunshine –however brief, that makes living here just about worth it.