It has been a couple of weeks since I last committed anything of note to the seemingly eternal sea of memory and infamy that is the Internet and so yet again, dear readers, I find myself driven to share my observations and (hopefully not that many)opinions of my life here upon this beautiful new world.
Spring has finally come to Wisconsin and I find, that as the Bard remarked about love, Spring here is a many splendoured thing.
Growing up in the North of England, spring was a pleasant enough season, the trees budding somewhere in March or potentially late February, depending on how bad the winter had been. In town parks and people's flowerbeds, snowdrops poked their way through the earth, delicate white flowers, lasting just a moment and then giving way to yellow, trumpet shaped daffodils, crocuses and tulips. And away from town, bluebells and violets covered woodland floors while lambs frolicked in fields like a newly painted work by Constable. The rest of the season alternated gently warm sun dappled days and periodic showers. This last point annoying to children who have been cooped up inside for most of a Winter of grey skies, rain and wind, but all in all not that difficult to live with.
Here Spring seems to take his role in life differently. In the Mid-West Winter and Summer are pretty uniform. The Winter is colder than a vacation to the Ice Planet of Hoth so wonderfully shown in The Empire Strikes Back, snow covering the ground for a significant portion of the time. I'd never seen two inches of snow fall in an hour before, it never occurred to be that I would, but as only a child who grew up on the rain streaked streets of Blightly could attest, I still got excited when it did just that. Snow still has the same magic for me as it did when I was a child and all the town's children would watch hoping and praying for a one day of snow in a season of rain.
Summers are warm and humid, heat-waves in the centre of a continent feel different to those on a smallish island surrounded by water. The sun feels brighter, sunglasses a necessity, as the state basks in temperatures in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit (for my British readers that means regular temperatures can vary anywhere from the upper 20s to mid 30s in degrees centigrade) and weekends are filled with messing about on lakes in boats, fishing and grilling up a storm.
Talking about storms, thunderstorms roll in from time to time and downpours are not uncommon. Unlike back home, however, where its sometimes a coin-toss whether Summer is going to be any warmer that Winter is, and newspapers each year prophecy the coming of a “barbecue summer” which as much accuracy as a Doomsday Cult Leader in a compound somewhere in Kansas with a basement full of automatic weapons and a garage full of dehydrated survival food predicts the end of the world. The Summers are hot and sunny.
And that brings us to Spring or Autumn, take your pick, which is when the Mid-West decides it wants to get in on the act of changeable weather conditions that appear in places like Europe but as if making up for lost time, goes a little bit over the top. Nights of frost where the temperatures can dip to freezing point are rapidly followed by days of summer like temperatures, weeks where it feels that I've gotten lost in a dream of the worst rainy day weather that the United Kingdom has to offer are followed by brilliant sunshine with barely a cloud in the sky. The trees seem to be bare one day and the next, they have more leaves than a rain-forest.
It takes some getting used to, although I find it nice that warmth is not a totally fleeting sensation during Spring and that the grey skies of my youth, which always seem to tire me so much, here are just a passing moment. Sometimes it seems strange to me that temperatures that back home we would consider more befitting of a summer day are regularly found in springtime and that snow can still fall potentially as late as May, but as with most things here, I have no choice but to adapt.
This is no easy task, I still find myself, for instance, reminding myself to bring an umbrella if anyone is having a cookout. As any person on that sceptred isle I hail from knows, the appearance of a barbecue or grill in Britain is enough to summon an instant raincloud over the exact spot of the said cooking device. Ancient peoples the world over have wasted so much time dancing to ask their Gods for rain. They got it wrong. There's a drought in your village? No need for a rain dance, all they had to do is try to throw a sausage on a British made barbecue and Bob's your uncle, instant monsoon. So, with difficulty, I have had to adapt and accept that I won't have to be prepared to rush inside at a moment's notice and “finish everything off in the oven”, while the rain falls with a sound like running laughter outside.
Again, with difficulty, I've had to learn to not duck and not search the skies for waves and waves of Messerschmidts and Stuka dive bombers, when they test the tornado siren here. The first time I heard it I was out in the Wisconsin countryside near the beautiful Geneva Lake and I heard the siren and all of a sudden race memory kicked in and I was in 1941 looking for an Air Raid Warden to tell me the way to an Anderson shelter. I recovered quickly, I hope. Otherwise my reflex ducking action would seem extremely strange to any onlookers.
I have to admit though, I do like the Spring here. It might be more extreme in its extremes but the weather forecasts are a lot more accurate and we have a balcony at our apartment so that's nice. Evenings and weekends are full of the smell of grills and when the evening comes it feels like those summer evenings you had as a child which seemed to stretch on forever and never end. All things seemed possible in the twilight of a summer's evening back home. And so I'm glad that the evenings here in Spring feel like Summer ones where I came from, because it makes me feel more at home. Because I'm starting to feel at home and in a lot of ways I have no choice but to do just that, this is where I now live and where my wife lives and as everyone knows, you can never truly go back to where you were before. Maybe that is why America has prospered so much, the people who settled these shores knew that and knew that settlement was a one way ticket and so they had to adapt, they had to reach for the stars and carve a life out of the land and the strange but wonderful seasons.
To try and understand this country more (and being the sort of hopeless geek who reads Wikipedia for fun) I have been studying the individual states themselves. To those amongst my British readers who don't know, each State has its own flag, motto and several State symbols that they feel represent their State best. Nearly of their mottoes speak of hope and the future. A belief that God looks down on people who step out into nothing but hope and is pleased to bless them with abundance.
Some of their State symbols are a little ridiculous or might appear so to outsiders, every state appears to have a “STATE SOIL” for instance, and at least one has a “STATE HISTORICAL COOKING VESSEL” and California even has a “STATE PREHISTORIC ARTIFACT”.
However everyone of the state mottoes is in inspiring in its own way. And in this time of Spring and thinking of adapting and growing in a new country, one motto in particular strikes me as apt for anyone who ever finds themselves in a totally new world. Its the State Motto of the State of Connecticut, one of the original 13 colonies which reads “Qui Transtulit Sustinet” a Latin phrase which translated says, “He who transplanted sustains”.
So when I find myself struggling to adapt and yearning for home, I find myself thinking on that and praying that would be true of me. Because Springs here are pretty good and I've hopefully got more than a few to see and some growth and prosperity would be good too.