My brother in Illinois brags about their bad weather. One day last winter, he emailed that the temperature had risen above zero for the first time in three days. Of course their house is insulated and sealed up tight, his furnace was cranked up, and they had a fire going in their big fireplace. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t complain about the weather under those circumstances. It may have been zero outside, but my brother was comfortable.
That’s really the determination, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable, winter isn’t such a big deal. But if it’s cold and wet and miserable, winter is the pits no matter where you are. Even if it’s 60 degrees and you’re in Hawaii.
It’s getting to be winter here. About this time of year, every year, we have stretches of several days when the temperature drops, the wind picks up, and it rains. And rains some more. And then it pours, and water starts running downhill. And that’s pretty much everywhere here on Maui. This whole island is one big slope descending from Haleakala, the dormant volcano that dominates East Maui, the larger half of the island. Runoff from the torrential rains has gouged out our gulches and ravines and valleys over the millennia. This time of year it rains a lot. After a few minutes, it stops and maybe the sun will come out for a bit. Then it starts raining again.
Our house is at about 1,000 feet elevation, and when it’s windy and rainy and the temperature falls to 60, or even a couple of degrees below that, it may not be cold by your standards, but I guarantee you it’s damn unpleasant. The house itself is pretty typical — very open in design. There’s no need for air conditioning and the only thing we have for heat is a cast iron wood-burning stove in one corner of our living room. On cold mornings, I get a fire going, all the doors are closed, and we’re still walking around wearing sweaters. In the expressive and very funny local pidjin English, mornings like that are described as “freeze-ass-cold”.
From our side yard, we can look up at the summit of Haleakala. The rim of the crater is 10,000 feet high and once or twice a year a few inches of snow falls during the night up there. When that happens, a lot of the local folks pile into the car and drive up to the summit, The kids roll around in the snow and throw snowballs at each other for 10 or 15 minutes, then they get cold, drive back down and go to the beach.
I’ve lived in Hawaii for more than 50 years, and that still seems remarkable to me.