One of the most interesting things I’ve experienced since moving to Arizona has been the loss of an ability to keep time, as well as to know “place” through the seasons and weather.

This is not the first time that I’ve experienced the loss of this seasonality as I’ve moved around the country. But it is the most dramatic shift, as the previous moves have featured modest variants on broader midwest and east-coast weather patterns. The desert is vastly different, and its not just the oven-like heat.

One of my St. Louis recollections, for example, were long summer-like autumns, with both cool nights and warm days (lots of variability), as well as windy springs that started in March and last through May.  The Chicago lakefront had extraordinarily long autumns, cool nights and cool days, long past when autumn had ended, because Lake Michigan kept its heat for so long. This made for fabulous and oddly cool summer days. Wintery winds, late springs, and occasional lake-effect snow also captured the imagination. Washington was more like St. Louis, but warmer. Boston is like Chicago, but warmer, with the occasional NorEaster blowing through. Northern Ohio also followed a pattern like I experienced in Chicago, except more-so, because we lived on the windward side of the lake. This meant that spring came late and snow early (as this year.) In fact, a couple of my most profound memories involved a monster snowstorm the week before my daughter’s birthday, that made me realize winter in Northern Ohio begins in mid-to-early November, although you might get one teaser of a great weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Spring also came late, so much later than Chicago, with late-blooming blooming Forsythia telling you that it was around the corner, but also teasing you that you’d get at least one snow late in April.

In all these places, however, cool nights 40-60 degrees and/or warm afternoons warmed by the (too occasional) sunshine signaled seasonal change. The latter marked the transition from winter to spring and spring to summer. The former marked the transition from summer to fall and fall to winter.

The desert, by contrast, gets the cooling and heating, but the shift is more gradual. This could be the urban heat inversion that’s warmed the desert up, or the ever-present sunshine. In the midwest and Northeast, the lack of sun indicates winter. (Only freezing polar vortexes come with sunshine.)  In some senses, we only get two (or three, perhaps) seasons. Summer, Fall/Winter, and Spring. Oddly, the local tourism site in Scottsdale indicates that there are five–differentiating between “wet” & “dry” summer. In my book, fall here is simply to hot to be considered autumn, without leaves falling either.  Thus, I would argue for Summer (in many different varieties), Fall/Winter, and Spring as the seasons.

Regardless, what is striking is how much of your life and its deadlines are oriented around seasonality, as well as your sense of places.  Getting used to the cadences of a landscape as different as the desert provides an interesting, if not slightly dislocating obstacle.


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