on weather

“How do you like Ukhta?”
“So far I like it… the people are nice, and the food is good, and I like snow.”
“You like the cold?”
“Sure. I mean, I haven’t seen much lower than minus twenty [for my American readers: -20C is -4F]…”
“What about minus forty?”
“Mmmm, only saw that once, and nobody went outside all day.”
(with laughter) “So, you don’t really like the cold.”

With such joyful reassurance I am met at least once a day, but usually two or three times. Why Russians take such delight in watching me react to the idea of frolicking around town in -40 weather [for my American readers: -40 is where F and C overlap] is beyond me. The only way I can make sense of it is by one of my favorite highbrow literary references…

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All that said, there’s only been one day when the weather here has made me really miserable. It was one of those lovely days that featured a temperaure of +2/+35 degrees and slush falling out of the sky, accompanied by the sort of wind that turns your umbrella inside out. Other than that, it’s okay. Currently the temperature is hanging out in the twenties Fahrenheit, so I don’t have to dodge icy puddles or carry an umbrella. With my wool coat and new boots, walking around town is actually pretty fun. After 30 minutes, my nose starts to run, but mostly it’s fine 🙂

The worst part of the weather here: clouds. There’s something like a 98-99% cloud cover, which means that I’ve seen the sun about 5 times in the last 25 days, and I have yet to see a single star. I regret ever complaining about the permacloud in South Bend. I repent.

The best part of the weather here: sun-days. Yes, every Sunday, we’ve seen the sun, and it’s awesome. The first few weeks, Sunday was the only day we saw the sun. Whoever is up there controlling the clouds has a nice sense of humor.

First Sunday, first sun day in Ukhta
First Sunday, first sun day in Ukhta
Second Sunday, second sun day (also very autumn-looking, yes?)
Second Sunday, second sun day (also very autumn-looking, yes?)
Third Sunday, third sun day. More winter than fall by this time.
Third Sunday, third sun day. More winter than fall by this time.
Fourth Sunday, fourth sun day. And definitely winter. (This is a picture of our courtyard, including the best bargain store EVER, where you can buy just about anything for 47 rubles/75 cents.)
A less sunny day (actually this was the first snow).
A less sunny day (actually this was the first snow).
Picture from yesterday... look, the sun is shining a little and it isn't even Sunday!
Picture from yesterday, after about two weeks of snow… look, the sun is shining a little and it isn’t even Sunday!

But I’m pretty happy through all of this. Because I love Weather as a category of thing. As C. S. Lewis understands (but what doesn’t he understand?)…

“Don’t you like a rather foggy day in a wood in autumn? You’ll find we shall be perfectly warm sitting in the car.”
Jane said she’d never heard of anyone liking fog before but she didn’t mind trying. All three got in.
“That’s why Camilla and I got married, “said Denniston as they drove off. “We both like Weather. Not this or that kind of weather, but just Weather. It’s a useful taste if one lives in England.”
“How ever did you learn to do that, Mr. Denniston?” said Jane. “I don’t think I should ever learn to like rain and snow.”
“It’s the other way round,” said Denniston. “Everyone begins as a child by liking Weather. You learn the art of disliking it as you grow up. Noticed it on a snowy day? The grown-ups are all going about with long faces, but look at the children – and the dogs? They know what snow’s made for.”
“I’m sure I hated wet days as a child,” said Jane.
“That’s because the grown-ups kept you in,” said Camilla. “Any child loves rain if it’s allowed to go out and paddle about in it.”

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

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