Timewarp buzz

by Yule Heibel on August 2, 2003

Living north of the 49th parallel means long, long summer days. Come to think of it, I don’t actually live very far north since Victoria must be slightly below the 49th. This is my first full year back here, however, and sometime in June I noticed that I was increasingly out of my mind: buzzy, zippy, startled, whatever. Around the solstice, I began to suspect that it had something to do with the relentless, seemingly never-ending daylight. I’m convinced that if Swedes, for example, were to be found to be secretly insane, it would have to have something to do with the daylight. Ditto the Inuit. Now that it’s August, the days are finally, finally abbreviating themselves a tad earlier — by minutes and seconds each day. Civil twilight is currently around 9:30 p.m. (and 5:10 a.m.), nautical twilight later (and earlier); actual twilight happens close to 9 p.m. But a month ago the day was an hour longer. Tied to a blue chair, the blue millionaire shines a huge light into my eyes. Nuts. Don’t think that this all evaporates by October, either. In winter the days aren’t as bright, but it’s not the case that they are significantly shorter than in Rome or Boston. They simply start later, which I don’t even notice since I’m not an early riser. I visit the weather sites and notice that it’s perfect for lay-abouts such as myself: daylight around 8 a.m., vs. the 7 a.m. mid-winter daybreak around the Boston latitudes. The sun sets around the same time, however: in the depths of winter, it’s quite dark around 5 p.m. in both places. It’s odd that the northern winter days stay light in the afternoons as long as the ones further south do, even though they do start much later in the morning, but that the summer days, which start around the same time in the mornings, last much longer here, well into the so-called night. It must be because the world is round. Another thing I’m finding strange to adjust to is the never-ending sameness of perfect summer weather. In Massachusetts, the first saying I learned — from a nice lady at Bloomingdale’s in the Chestnut Hill Mall — was, “If you don’t like our weather, wait a minute.” It was September ’85 and Hurricane Gloria was about to rip through New England. Wait a MINUTE?? You gotta be kidding! We had just moved to Boston from Vancouver, where the weather stayed the same for weeks on end. Now it would change by the minute? Which indeed it did, contributing in its wake to a completely different sense of discombobulated buzzy-ness. I admit that I never got used to the lousy weather in the Boston area. But now I’m not in Vancouver, I’m on Vancouver Island, and compared to Vancouver, Victoria’s sense of weather-time is even more constant and predictably ever-the-same. Victoria is located on the southern tip of the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. In the winters, it’s in a rain-shadow, and in the summers, its groove is a never-ending Mediterranean sameness of constantly beautiful dry weather, all the time, every single bloody day, sweaters required at night. (For a report on the highly exceptional Blizzard of ’96, click here.) Here, the winters are quite moist, by which I mean that they aren’t nearly as wet as Vancouver’s or Seattle’s; the summers are exceedingly dry and generally warm. Spring is an actual season, not a flash-flood of mud, and autumn is somber, not as colourful as Back East with all its sugar maples, but pleasant, without the threatening hint of serious frost that thrills the East Coast. This is how it stays for months on end. No changes, ever, beyond the slow change of the seasons. It’s something to think about when pondering different social climates. How often do you get slapped about by extreme weather, vs. how often do you get to r-e-l-a-x to a never-ending sameness of nice weather that lasts for weeks? How does the weather affect your sense of drive? Is this Lotus Land, the place where hippies never die and everyone slows down, because the weather stays the same? Would the British have gone out to conquer most of the world if they had had better weather at home? This city is named after a Queen of Empire, for pete’s sake. But will Victoria ever evolve into a get-up-and-go kind of place? I suspect it will only insofar as we’re all doing things virtually now. In real time and space, though, everyone’s at the beach all summer long. When I moved here in 1969 as a kid, I was instantly convinced that Victoria was home to Archie and Veronica, to Jughead, Betty, and Reggie. I was convinced, in fact, that I was going to high school with some of these characters, even if our interests expanded far beyond what the strip hinted at. I had moved to Victoria from Winnipeg, a significantly harsher and bigger city that had the following seasons: winter, winter, mud, and Sahara-scorch, followed by winter. Decades later, dazed by high-humidity summers on the East Coast, I suddenly remembered my 12-year-old’s suspicion, and realized that the comic strip characters were the nostalgic ideal of someone who had to be dreaming of Long Island or Connecticut. But Victoria has always seemed that unreal. I know there’s a reality here somewhere, but it’s warped in a completely different sense of time and remains resistant to translation.

{ 1 comment }

Joel August 3, 2003 at 3:45 am

Since I started blogging, I’ve watched the progress of the days more closely here. Our weather isn’t especially exciting, but I have grown to love the coming of Spring and discern the special character of our winter. Autumn may be my favorite season except that the days grow shorter and I am beginning to suspect that I have SAD.

I don’t know that any self-respecting comic book character would live within fifty miles of me. Except, of course, for Mickey Mouse, which says a great deal about the character of the people here.

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