There is science, logic, reason; there is thought verified by experience. And then there is California.—Edward Abbey
I have been away from California too long and need to go back. How do I know this? We have a wind chill of 16 degrees this morning and I’m not in the mood to put on pants. There’s only one reasonable solution to that problem: California. Southern California, to be exact. I have a fondness for the Santa Monica area, which is where today’s picture was taken.
California is a wonderful example of how we adapt to our environment. Notice the gentleman seated on the bench here. He’s wearing a sweatshirt. A few minutes later, a woman passed wearing a heavy coat, walking her tiny little mop of a dog that was wearing a sweater. It was 72 degrees that morning. Everyone was looking oddly at me because I was in my short shirt sleeves and enjoying what was, for me, considerable warmth. By the time my trip there had ended, though, my own body had begun to adapt. I was wearing long sleeves and not bothering to roll them up as I had when I arrived. If I had stayed another week, I might have been reaching for a jacket as well.
The human body is amazing in how it adapts to whatever climate surrounds it. When I went out to fetch the little ones off the school bus yesterday afternoon, the temperature had risen just to the freezing mark with a windchill of 25. After the cold of the morning, the afternoon warm up didn’t feel nearly as uncomfortable as it might have had we arrived at that temperature coming down from, say, a more moderate 45.
Our response to temperature is relative which is what allows us to tolerate living in places such as Indiana or Michigan or Minnesota. Once we become accustomed to the idea that the temperature at which water freezes really isn’t all that cold, we are better able to tolerate the seemingly endless winters we encounter. There are people across the Midwest who actually miss snow when we don’t have it. There are times when I’m one of those people.
California gets snow, too. The uniqueness of the variations in altitude there allow one to go from the desert warmth of Palm Springs, which is a lovely little city this time of year, to a mountain ski resort within less than a two-hour drive. One might think that such quick transitions from warm to cold might make one ill, but that hardly seems to be the case. Our bodies are amazingly flexible when called upon to do so.
Yet, no amount of adaptation allows me to actually enjoy mornings like this. Perhaps the fact that it is morning has something to do with the problem. I have less of an issue with the cold around noon. By evening, I hardly notice the frigidity.
Then, there’s that whole time change thing. Time is, of course, an artificial measure of human construct, but it still affects when we do things like sleeping and such. There is a three-hour difference between Indiana and California. I’m accustomed, and my body is well adapted, to getting up around 4:00 AM each morning and having coffee. Do the math. That means when I’m visiting California, I’m looking for a coffee shop that is open at 1:00 AM. I’m sure there’s one somewhere in the greater Los Angeles area, but none within walking distance of my breach-front hotel. When I ask the front desk clerk, he looks at me as though I’m crazy. I have to wait until 6:00 Pacific Time before the nearest coffee shop is open.
Okay, so there is a down side to being in California. Adapting to the time change is not as easy as adapting to the weather. Then, just about the time one has made the transition, it’s time to come home, which throws the body off its schedule once again. Maybe, just maybe, our bodies aren’t as good at this whole traveling thing as we might like to think. Sure, we’re adaptive, but the constant switching back and forth between time zones and climates becomes wearisome. There is a reason our primitive ancestors staked out one place and called it home.
Still, when I put on my coat and scarf in a few minutes (and pants), it will be California of which I’m thinking. I really need to visit out there again, soon.