Since moving more than three years ago from Southern California to northeast Indiana, I’ve done my fair share of carping about the weather. This may come as a surprise, but the reason for my complaining is not the snow, which I mostly enjoy, or even the biting cold.
The problem is the gray. We’ve had some teasing rays of sunshine lately, but not nearly enough to dispel the gloom. For what seems like many months now, just like every fall-winter-spring, it has been overcast day after overcast day, one following the other in a seeming monochrome stream, draining energy, initiative, productivity.
OK, I’m exaggerating. A little.
One thing that the Midwest climate has over Southern California, of course, is seasonal change. It isn’t always 70 degrees and sunny here. So, when spring rolls around and it does become 70 and sunny — briefly, of course, before the oppressive heat and humidity of summer — you’ve really got something to celebrate.
And one thing Midwest Catholics have over their L.A. co-religionists is a climate that works in harmony with the liturgical year. None of those light, airy breezes in Lent; instead, it is appropriately dreary, as if nature itself had donned sackcloth and ashes.
And that makes Easter all the more glorious. Even more so this year, considering how late we celebrated our high feast and thus how much more time all green and growing things had to cover the dark earth and adorn themselves with flowers.
Our family had another reason to celebrate new life this year as well, when our second-grader made her first Communion May 1, with about 80 other children in our parish. (And the weather was appropriately brilliantly sunny for the several hours surrounding the liturgy, despite the gray and wet that characterized the rest of the weekend.)
It also helps that my commute is along acre upon acre of farmland. The fields have laid barren all winter, and even now are a muddy mess because of all the rain we’ve had this spring, but soon will be sprouting little corn and soybean plants.
My wife and I gardened in California, too (you should have seen the size of the basil plants we grew to satisfy our pesto habit), but it is a much different experience here. For one, it seems a more fragile endeavor. Plant too early, and you’ll lose plants to late frost. Lots of bugs to battle. Rabbits and chipmunks nibbling at leaves and roots.
All in all, from an aid-to-spirituality point of view, I think I prefer the Midwest, with its themes of darkness and light, death and rebirth, growth and harvest, persistent prayer and trust in divine providence. Of course, right about now, though, as I look out the window at cloudy skies, I wonder if that’s a mistake.
How about you? Which climate produces more saints: the harsh one or the mild one?