Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Chilly Tropics

Long ago, it was a revelation to learn that the local woods are classified as temperate rain forest. At the same time, I experienced tropical rain forest conditions thanks to a summer in Puerto Rico. On the way there, I transferred airlines on a New York July morning and seriously wondered whether I would live long enough to make the trek across the humid ninety degree runway into Saarinen's terminal. Long island weeks of ninety degree days of ninety percent humidity taught me how to pace myself. Air conditioning was not a factor, but traditional local architecture was. 

Since the local woods were logged in the late Seventies and early Eighties, Seattle weather has not been itself. My sense is that regrowth has restored the pattern of fragrant damp chill that was an aspect of our environment I could count on. Clean air is the key, as is avoiding the destructive rhetoric of broadcast weather reporting. Get it right, and every day is a good day. 

New construction south of the house has eliminated the passive solar gain I had long counted on over the dark months when the sun sleeps in and retires at three-thirty. It's no so different from PR in the mid-Sixties, though the days were a little longer. It is necessary to pay attention to conditions to stay comfortable and happy. A now-shaded interior coupled with high humidity is where the similarity lies. Enough artificial heat to forestall borderline hypothermia keeps my engine running, just as careful attention to physical activity reduced stress over that tropical summer. 

Wardrobe suited to local conditions is an interesting consideration. Western Washington Indians wore little more than long hair, salmon oil and cedar bark skirts similar to traditional Hawaiian wear. For outdoors they added glorious rain shedding hats and substantial rain capes. I find that a heavy wood sweater, boonie hat, and coated nylon poncho suffice for most conditions. Shoes are barely necessary in the winter as long as one is healthy and active. Flip flops round out heavy warmth in the upper body.

Interestingly, the comfortable traditional food of Puerto Rico hardly differs from the old-fashioned cuisine of my ancestors along the Mississippi. Long gentle cooking, easily managed with small appliances, is the key to the mint-30-

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