Snow and lights

For the first time ever in my life, I watched a real live snowstorm last week.

When I moved to Seattle, I surely expected rain. I’d be an idiot not to. When I was looking for homes to buy in the Seattle area, I researched transportation routes for each option, and as a result, intimately got to know the King County transportation websites. This includes the snow schedule/routes. I knew that Snow Days happened, but from discussions with people from the area, or who’d lived there, snow was not the norm. In fact, Seattle when it snows equated to LA when it rains. Shit shuts down. People lose their shit, and suddenly can’t drive anymore. Luckily for LA and Seattle, rain and snow, respectively, don’t happen that frequently.

Yet, it snowed twice last week, on December 5 and 8, 2016, after I’d already commuted into work. Thank goodness, or I may not have made it in. Having 5+ knee surgeries under my belt, and a propensity for klutziness, I try to avoid snow at all costs. It’s not even winter yet, so snow within my first autumn in Seattle was wholly unexpected.

After obsessively checking weather apps, which kept altering their predictions for snow at 6pm, 7pm, then 8pm… I made it to and subsequently left my physical therapy appointment to head home via bus, praying to a God I may or may not believe in that the buses hadn’t already shut down. After the 12-year-old chiropractor rubbed out my knees, neck, back and tender feet, I shuffled to a CVS for some last minute decorations once the bus dropped me off closer to home.

Suddenly, around 9pm, the snow came. As a Californian, it was never a way of life. It was a commercial. It was on TV. It was the east coast, middle America, Mount Everest, Austria, everywhere and everyone but who I am. And yet, when the uniquely individual snowflakes congregated on the balcony handrail, on the patio furniture covers, as the snow flurried in the light from the street lamps, clung to windshields of parked cars, I felt oddly, and amazingly, at home. I missed my dad, who is no longer of this earth. I hugged my cat tight for at least 30 seconds, every one of those seconds he vacillated between despondent defeat and fervently trying to escape my cuddles. As he tried to break free, like any prisoner in the show Orange is the New Black who fled for a swim in the lake when the officers were nowhere to be found, I felt more… more. That’s all I can explain it as: more. I teared up. I cried for seemingly no reason and all the reasons, at once. I watched the trash pandas (raccoons) that I didn’t even know existed in my neighborhood frolic with a pit bull, ruining the blanket of fresh, white snow.

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I felt myself heavy, perhaps from all the lives I’m not living, yet content with the one I was. Scared about the future of my home and life under the regime of a man who has time for SNL and Twitter but not the President’s Daily Briefing. Most strongly of all, I missed my Dad, and just knowing he was a phone call away, should I pick up the phone. My heart broke and rebuilt, all in the same moment. It wasn’t my first Christmas spent away from California, but it was my first being back in the USA, but not as a California resident. I felt like a stranger to this city, and at the same time, someone who now knew it during the rare occasion of a snowstorm.

Music always makes me feel better, so I airplay mirrored my holiday playlist on my Apple TV (feeling very technologically proficient since my friends showed me how to do so at Thanksgiving,) and began decorating my tree I’d acquired earlier in the week. I bought it at a lot in Capitol Hill, the gayborhood of Seattle. The lot was run by Seattle Area Support Groups, who donates to various charities after they cover costs, including providing direct support to Washington gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and minority communities, as well as toward fighting HIV/AIDS and other STDs. I basically picked the first tree I saw, because every tree is lovely if you have enough alcohol and low standards (and a time limit to your Zipcar reservation.)

My dad and I always used to go cut down our Christmas tree together from a tree farm when I was growing up. I didn’t cut this one myself, but I think the missing him hit me like a tsunami because I was attempting a modified form of getting a live tree without him for the first time since he passed. I had a fake tree my first Christmas back in San Francisco after repatriating from Australia. I hadn’t crossed that bridge until last week.

I also had electricians by today to finally complete a much-anticipated project of mine on the condo: a halogen-to-LED fixture conversion project for a majority of the in-unit lighting. The bathrooms already have somewhat more modern fixtures, and they have smaller, more manageable halogen lights. However, all non-bathroom lights were halogen. They threw off a lot of heat, not appreciated at all in the summer months. Not only am I more energy efficient as a result of this project, but I’ll begin to (hopefully) see real savings in my electricity bills. It was a relatively inexpensive way to add value to my home, and a way to see instant savings in my own use and enjoyment of the lights.

As a side note to any of my friends considering a similar project at their home – let me know if you’ve any questions. I asked a lot of stupid questions of my electricity company, and they helped educate me quite a lot. In the end, I went with 3000K fixtures (that speaks to color temperature along a daylight/bright light/soft light/candle spectrum – here, if you’re curious, is more info on the spectrum. Some folks are leery of LED lighting because it can come off as too bright, even bluish in hue. LED lights have come a long way, and don’t have to look like bug lights anymore. So if you’re thinking about it, do it!

Now that I’ve decorated for the holiday, and added more fairy lights than I previously had year-round, home is quite homey, and ready for my mother and aunt to visit. It’ll be the closest to Christmases I used to have growing up I’ll have since my father passed away. My aunt would usually fly in and it would be just the four of us nearly every year.

It’s a new city for me this year, a new condo, the same cat with new asthma, and the nearly the same but never quite the same again family. It’s been a big year for me, in many positive ways. But I lost my cousin to aggressive brain cancer, and that loss reverberates this time of year. That’s partially why I invited family to visit me here. If I’m being honest, to go back east and face my broader family without him might just be too hard for me right now. But baby steps. We all have projects that need tackling, in our homes, and in our hearts/minds. All in good time.

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