Appreciating Pacific Northwest Summers

Rainstorm moving in over the Hood Canal

Rainstorm moving in over the Hood Canal, August 2010

Summer is officially here!

But as I write this, the sky is a dripping white ceiling of clouds, and the rain is forecasted to continue for days.

When I was growing up, summer meant sweltering heat, sundresses, water gun fights, lemonade, sunburns. Since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where the summers are notoriously mild, I’ve adjusted my expectations. After three summers, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t expect hot or sunny days until July. We Washingtonians love to lament our lack of a summer. But there’s plenty to appreciate about our cool Pacific Northwest summers.

In California I was forced to seek refuge from the heat indoors or at the foggy coast. In Washington, we have very few days over 80 degrees (at least lately). Mostly, the temperature is supremely pleasant. The sun is mellow on our skin. Late spring and early summer offer glorious stretches of daylight — here in Seattle, it’s light out from 5am till past 9pm.

Old growth forest in the Central Cascades

Old growth forest in the Central Cascades near North Bend, WA

For our cool, wet early summers, we’re rewarded with sumptuous temperate forests. Our climate nurtures the Olympic Peninsula’s cedars and Douglas firs robed in voluptuous moss, Northern California’s behemoth redwoods rooted in smooth sheets of sorrel, Western Washington’s tender ferns and flowers of the forest floor. Our native plants need this climate. They’re adapted to long winters punctuated by a summer just long enough to bloom between meltout and first snow.

Though I may look longingly at the sun dresses stashed at the back of my closet, the tradeoff is worth it to me to live somewhere as lushly beautiful as the Pacific Northwest.

About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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