I recall taking a silly quiz that one of my friends brought to school when I was in high school. Each question involved making a choice between this or that. I had to indicate whether I preferred the beach or the mountains, warm weather or cold. Ironically I tended to choose all of the answers that described a place totally unlike my hometown which is as flat as any place might be and hot for most of the year. I suppose that I have always thought that it would be lovely to be in a place that gets cool enough in the fall to create magnificent colors and cold enough in the winter to make use of my coats and sweaters which usually become outdated before I have worn them out.
When I was in England not long ago I had to wear a light jacket in May, a wonder to me because back home I would have been wearing sleeveless tops and shorts. One of my journeys on that trip took me well north of London to visit York where we slept at night with the windows open and had no need for air conditioning. In our explorations we journeyed to the coast and explored a little village that lies on the North Sea. It was windy and blustery there as I looked into the vast expanse of the water and imagined Danes landing in their boats in medieval times. I could envision fishermen plying their trade on the often perilous waters.
The winds from the sea made my light weight coat seem useless but I loved the feel of the frigid air blowing on my face. I felt history in the sting on my cheeks even as I shivered from being unaccustomed to such weather. Luckily help was just up the hill from the water’s edge where a little shop offered beautiful handmade wool sweaters made by local wool weavers.
I was enthralled by the organic colors and the intricate pattern of the garments. The owner of the shop explained that they were made just like the sweaters worn by the seamen from the town who once launched their boats from the same coves that I had just explored. I learned that every fishing town had its own weave for the garments that the men wore on their journeys on the sea. Because the waters were often rough shipwrecks were commonplace and the sweaters identified the bodies of those who died.
I purchased one of the beautiful sweaters in a cranberry colored hue. I put it on immediately and felt warm even as the day wore into evening and the temperature continued to drop. I sat at the top of a hill munching on fish and chips and imagining that I could hear the voices of the villagers of long ago. I suspected that in spite of the beauty of the place life had been difficult there. I wondered how many times some poor soul had worn a sweater like mine only to end up drowned in the unforgiving waters during a storm.
My sweater instantly became one of my favorite items of clothing but when I returned home from my trip I had to store it away because the days and even the nights would be hot for many months. I waited patiently for a day cold enough to warrant donning my sweater and many many weeks passed. Not even December brought the kind of temperatures I needed. It was January before I awoke to almost freezing temperatures that promised to be appropriate for my North Sea gear.
I wisely wore a thin t-shirt under the sweater in case it became too warm for the heavy woolen clothing. I made it to about noon before realizing that the mercury was inching up and the sun was bearing down a bit too much to remain comfortable. I had to remove my beautiful sweater and store it away until the next frigid day, which has yet to come.
There was a time when I wore coats and sweaters from late November to the end of February even here in my mostly warm part of the world. The changing climate has slowly eradicated the need for winter gear where I live. Coats and sweaters and boots and gloves last forever because we have to wear them so rarely. I suppose I will be lucky to don my sweater more than half a dozen times in the next ten years. Perhaps I will just need to travel to the north or return to England to find an excuse for bringing it out of storage.
In late September of this year I visited Rocky Mountain National Park. I brought my sweater hoping that I would need it in the high mountains. Even there it was unseasonably warm. The cranberry colored garment never left my suitcase. Somehow it served as a warning to me that our climate is changing in disturbing ways, a thought that was confirmed only a few weeks later when many of the places I had just visited were ablaze with wildfires.
We humans are continually challenged by nature whether we battle storms on the sea or the ravages of a virus. We study our problems and find ways to either overcome them or adapt to them. We are clever in that way. My sweater reminds me that we are linked together in a long chain that reaches way back into history. We stumble and fight and fall but somehow we always manage to use our wits to press forward. We adapt and progress never losing sight of where we have been. It may take a bit to get there but I believe that ultimately we will be fine and one day I will wear my sweater again.