We are a temperate-centric culture

Everywhere from The Weather Channel blog (twcblog) to the Weekly Reader blog (readandwriting) to my blog reading list, I’m seeing posts about the temperate-zone version of autumn–posts extolling the changing colors and crisp days, and warning me that winter is just around the corner and that I should enjoy this weather while I can.

Often this time of year, I’m struck by how the self-image of the United States is very much based on New England and the Midwest, and how we assume that everyone in the country experiences changing leaves followed by bitter cold as part of their year. Yet glancing at a map I come up with at least a dozen states where, for the most part, that isn’t true–some of them among the largest states, population-wise, in the country.

Part of it is that northern autumn really is a stunning season. I grew up with it, and when I first moved to the desert, I missed it enough–and was attuned to it enough–that I felt like I’d been cheated of autumn that year.

After 12 years, I can see the signs of autumn in the desert more clearly–the gentle cool evenings, the sharp clarity of the outlines of the mountains against the achingly deep blue sky, the change in the color and slant of the light.

In other parts of the country, presumably there are other signs–I’m sure autumn in Florida, or Arkansas, or Texas have their own signs and meanings. I’m sure, too, that the harsh season–the season to be endured, the season one finds beautiful in ways one can’t explain to outsiders, the season whose presence lurks behind and colors all the others–is different, too.

The United States is huge. Many things bind Americans to one another, and we have many things in common. But our seasons and our weather are not among them.

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