Thursday, November 14, 2013
For my first few years in the US, whenever someone addressed me as "Ma'am", I couldn't help but turn and look behind me, certain that there must be an older woman standing nearby. Ma'am just isn't used in Australia, so my associations with that word are purely based on American films and TV shows. I certainly never felt like a ma'am... and then the other day as I was on a stroll, a male driver pulled up and asked me for directions. He addressed me as ma'am, and I liked it. I especially love the way people from the South use it so frequently.
It's one of those words that seems to be used out of respect and politeness, and I've come to appreciate that. Outside of the US, there's a stereotype about Americans being rude and without manners but that hasn't been my experience while living here. I'll admit that I used to hold those same preconceptions about Americans, but living here has changed that.
The current autumnal weather means the grounds are overloaded with leaves, and it's beautiful. About a week ago, we had a huge windstorm overnight which pretty much took our power out for most of the weekend (not cool, Seattle, not cool - especially at this time of year). Something that feels odd at times, though, is sweeping or vacuuming the pine needles that get tracked into our home. For me, pine needles indoors has only ever been in connection with having a real Christmas tree, so - without a Christmas tree in sight yet - I can't help but smile when I find pine needles on our floor.
Another aspect of living in such a damp environment is the sheer amount of moss everywhere. It makes me grateful to be living in a building which isn't sheltered by trees, as I've seen a lot of green fuzzy rooftops around. In addition to the moss, I've now become aware of lichens - something I'd never really encountered (or at least noticed) in the past. Bare trees are now sprouting lichens up and down their trunks and along branches, and wooden fences are covered the same way. The soft blue-green delicate patterns remind me of snowflakes, and I'm finding myself peering for closer glimpses on my walks.
Going for walks isn't something I'm doing a great deal of these days. The cold and wet isn't something I've embraced yet, so I'm feeling a little like a hermit. Today, I thought Well, we've got months and months and months of this to go, so it's time to put your big girl panties on and go for a walk in the rain with Miss Pie. Deal with it. Get used to it.
So we did... and it was even less of an adventure than I'd hoped for. When we left the house, it was lightly raining and although we each had raincoats on, Miss Pie wanted to bring an umbrella too. Part of me was thinking, but if we're going to be locals, we have to learn not to bother with umbrellas... and then the other part of me reminded myself, fuck it, you hate water streaming off the top of your hood and into yours eyes... so the umbrellas won.
Then only two blocks down the hill, the whining began. Her umbrella was tricky to carry. She didn't want it up. She didn't want it down. She didn't want to carry it. Water was seeping into her boots through brand new holes at the heels (a record time for new boots not lasting). Her socks were getting wet and sticky. She didn't want sticky feet. Her hands were cold. Her mittens were getting wet.
At that point, we were more than halfway to the destination I had in mind (a French bakery) so I pushed on... and then the mother of all deluges kicked in. No amount of umbrellas or raincoats or functional boots could have kept us comfortably warm or dry. Once we got to the bakery, hot chocolate, coffee and pastries saved the day. We warmed up, watched the rain get even heavier out the windows, thanked our lucky stars that we were inside, and then waited for the rain to ease. The pastries were so good, I was tempted to just spend the entire afternoon there, stuffing my face.
Thankfully, by the time we made our getaway, the rain did stop. It was a steep hill back home, and I braced myself for even more whining... but with the rain gone, suddenly everything in Miss Pie's world was hunky dory. Puddles to stomp in (wet socks be damned). Slushy piles of leaves to kick. More puddles. More leaves. Water-droplet enhanced spider webs to admire. Gurgling storm water drains to watch.
The walk back home was the walk I'd been hoping for when we'd first set off.
I'm not sure how many months of cold wetness I can handle though. People here - other transplants - tell me the first winter is the hardest. Locals - born and bred - laugh and tell me every winter sucks.
High time I learned to make mulled wine then. I have a feeling I'll be needing it...