Tag Archives: Birkenstocks

Northwesterners wear black in spring

This year winter was like a photo negative of last year; except for a few inches of snow in December, none has fallen on the streets of Walla Walla. The last month didn’t even bluster much, with a few days of overcast and a few days of rain, and a whole lot of days during which we didn’t ask much of the heater in the basement, so it sat there like a sleeping dragon with a chest cold, happy not to cough up any fire for us. Back out in DC all of our friends were moaning, then foaming, then apoplectic about the endless bands of snow that covered absolutely everything. They posted angry statuses on Twitter and Facebook. They took pictures as evidence. With way too much time on their hands, they made time-lapse movies of porches increasingly blanketed, forgotten toys buried, and personal vehicles inconveniently blocked in by an inconceivable amount of frozen precipitation. I watched this all from 3,200 miles away, exhaling in wonder and relief that my nonconsensual isolation in the house from 30 inches of snow and no plowing last year did not repeat itself. It would have been some kind of very cruel irony if I’d been back in DC this winter. And to everyone who had copious amounts of time with their loved ones while they were instructed to stay home, day after agonizing day, you have my sympathy.

Spring clearly has sprung around here, has been springing for a while, actually. The wineries are readying for the tourist onslaught, and people are smiling with notable more frequency, often looking at the big yellow ball in the sky, so happy for their skin to generate some vitamin D, even as their retinas fry away from the radiation.

But this is the Pacific Northwest, well, kind of, and damned if we’re not all still wearing earth tones and lots of black and gray and navy blue. We have to separate ourselves from the color of daffodils, after all, for we might confuse pollinators otherwise. It’s an ecological imperative, see. We feel that much warmer when the sun beats down on our black hoodies than if we were simply wearing a white t-shirt. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wearing a down vest over a dark gray long-sleeved shirt (or even better, a black hoodie), even if it’s 74 degrees outside because look, just over there, see the mountains? Snow on the mountains! Never mind that they’re 3,000 feet higher than us. If we can see snow, it must be cold.

Some Northwesterners complement these heavy jackets with wool socks and Birkenstock sandals. It’s actually a rather popular look, and it separates the wheat from the chaff; people with any hesitation about wearing socks and sandals together, especially with cargo shorts, have simply not lived in the PacNW long enough. People who wear this combination and live in some other geographic area, you need to put everything you can fit in your car and move out here, because you have some like-minded crazy people out here who really, really want to meet you.

Sure, we enjoy spring. We don’t want to compete with it. We’ll walk through wildflowers and scrub brush, and all the sage that survived becoming tumbleweeds over the reasonably short winter, but we’ll walk through it in ecologically friendly clothing and gear, we’ll take reusable water bottles with us, and some of us will  cover up our tracks on the way back, lest we leave anything behind that wasn’t there before we passed by. And when the temperature hits 100 degrees in June, then fine, okay, we’ll ditch the socks. But the synthetic down vest stays.

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