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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Musings on the Warmest Autumn in 50 Years

Like many of my American friends, I imagined living in Finland would be like living on the North Pole: slogging through 10-foot high snowdrifts, skating and skiing 8 months of the year, braving -20 degree (Fahrenheit) weather to get to work, and chipping chunks of ice off of Ted regularly.  Heck, there was even some drunken speculation (I won't name names, Betsy and John) about how quickly Ted would need to pee before it froze!  Definitely not a SC concern.

Well, so far my experience here has made me a believer in the Finnish weather.  To be honest, it's been a lot like Dublin, save for much less rain--yippee!!  The last month or so where the days have been getting shorter and the highs are in the low 40s haven't actually bothered me at all; I've gotten used to having gloves, scarf, and a good coat with me at all times (and a hat sometimes) and am gaining expertise at gaging which way the wind is blowing to minimize the wind chill.  Ted, of course, thinks he's in Golden Retriever heaven: he can walk forever without getting overheated, and with every change of climate there are new smells.  (Walks for him are ALL about the smells.) 

Imagine my disappointment then when I learned that this wasn't typical, that some people were actually starting to freak out about how warm it was (witness the broadcasts about some plants starting to put out spring buds).  Even though they've had snow and winter weather advisories just 50 miles north of Helsinki, it seems like anyone with any sort of climatological inclination is a little freaked by the balmy weather we've been having.  (Hint: it's not balmy when I wear my down coat/duvet to take Ted for an afternoon walk.)

With that in mind, it inspired some musings on what has passed for a Finnish autumn and the Finn's relation to it:

1.  What a difference a few feet make!  Even though it was frosty this morning in the park, by now it's fine.  But if you turn towards the lake instead of towards the Bay, the park narrows, and with 20 feet less width, that makes the difference between sun and ice.  I almost found this out the hard way when I stepped onto the sidewalk at the end.  Even though we hadn't had rain or snow, it was still a bit slick.  It would've been more than a bit embarrassing to explain that I broke my ankle on THAT!

2.  I guess different parts of your body get colder here than they do in America.  I don't know about you, but when it's 30 degrees out, I'm pretty much cold all over.  Not Finnish women.  More times than I can count I have seen Finnish women with thick hats, huge scarves, and a down coat on top with a miniskirt and black tights or even fishnets below standing outside waiting for buses and trams or running errands.  They are tougher souls than I.

3.  Determination abounds.  The Finns have this quality called, I think, sisu which means determination or steadfastness--you just deal with things and move on.  Sometimes this plays out in amusing ways.  My current source of amusement are all the people who insist on walking with ski poles (Nordic walking, it's called) even though there's no snow anywhere and very little ice, my comment above notwithstanding.  By God, it's December so I should be able to do winter sports!!

4.  You've got to be kidding me.  For most people with dogs, this weather doesn't cause a blink; a few people with short-haired ones have put on the standard dog blankets/jackets, but almost everyone else just lets the dog do its thing, even down to swimming in the ocean.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a dog last week downtown in a full winter outfit complete with little sleeves and legs.  It had a fleece shirt and pants apparently attached with Velcro and little cut outs so that it could do its business.  You know, that's when your dog is just too much of a child-substitute!

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