It’s Juneuary in Seattle, a time of gray skies when you hoped they’d be blue; wet, cold days that call for boots when you wish you wore sandals; weekends filled with parades and marathons that make you wish you had stayed home rather than ventured out to fight traffic to and from yoga class.
In Juneuary, you still need a jacket, sometimes even a scarf, as the rest of the country sweats its way into summer. The mornings are foggy, more gray upon gray upon gray, and you wonder when -if ever- it will let up.
In Juneary, you buy tickets for summer concerts on the big lawn at the Woodland Park Zoo only to find yourself suspended two inches above the wet grass in your low sling chair, huddled under an umbrella, determined to press on with your picnic – which is why sneaking white wine in your Nalgene bottle is so important.
With Juneuary comes events meant for sunny days, like the Summer Solstice parade in Fremont with naked bicyclists and the Gay Pride parade with naked everybody. You’ve never seen so much lily white flesh in your life, exposed and proud as it careens by on floats adorned with sequins, balloon, feathers, and tiny little pieces of Lycra. In its bouncing, jiggling, and flopping asunder, the nakedness is so joyful that it’s a shame for the weather not to reward those thighs with a ray of sun.
They did wait a whole year to be exposed, after all.
In Juneary, we’re still ordering hot coffee and hot soups, yet (in complete denial), we request outdoor seating, even in blustery storms, because it’s June -dammit- and people should be outside on patios and decks, eating barbequed chicken and bratwurst and drinking margaritas.
Juneuary wears on and we fight it in all sorts of ways. Some of us wear open-toed red Mary Janes and tank tops fit for Carribbean cruises, suffering soppy toes and chilled shoulders on our way to work. Others order pina coladas or grilled shrimp with mango and pineapple when really only a chicken pot pie will give comfort against the 40- and 50-degree highs. We hold summer parties in our backyards, wearing halter tops under our sweaters, our colored paper lanterns glowing against the never-ending flocks of cumulonimbus, cirrus, and cumulus clouds that hang together like herds of slow-grazing sky-sheep.
There’s gray, and then there’s more gray.
Thank God for the trees, grasses, shrubs, weeds, tulips, lilies, magnolias, and cherry blossoms that have given way to all sorts of roses and multi-colored flowers throughout the city’s hanging baskets. Even the bridges lend a bit of greenery to our lives; we’re almost happy to be stopped by boat traffic on the Ballard Bridge. In fact, as Juneuary swings around, we see so much green that we begin to insist that it must be summer, even if the skies don’t agree.
Our arms are all gooseflesh when we step outside, but somewhere down deep we know that warm weather hovers atop that ceiling of clouds. That’s why we wear sunglasses at the slightest glint of direct light; our shades represent a sense of hopefulness that, perhaps, if we sit out under umbrellas in shorts and Ray-Bans, the sun will come out to teach us a lesson.
Then, by some miracle, it does.
Usually just for a day or two -this is Juneuary, after all- the clouds begin to thin and move, revealing dappled patios that call people down from their offices and apartments for an impromptu afternoon break. They’re wearing fuschia, orange, green, and turquoise instead of black and gray. Girls tie their hair back in pony tails to keep it off their necks; young men don flip-flops, T-shirts, and cargo shorts, lolling aimlessly as they guzzle pony-necked beers from old tin buckets filled with ice.
Attendance at Sounders and Mariners games goes up. People are friendlier. Busses are crowded and malls are deserted. The lawn at the Olympic Sculpture Park is littered with toddlers in only their diapers and couples lounging on blankets. Girlfriends on power walks catch up on the latest gossip, passing each other two-by-two, stopping to sniff the roses in the small garden at Myrtle Edwards Park.
It’s so warm that we find ourselves softening like butter left on a counter, sweating and molten. On the walk home, we favor the shady side of the street, feeling our tender shoulders redden and our stores of melanin burst into action with spontaneous freckling. We rush to the store to buy Tuscan melon, corn on the cob, and chicken for grilling, ignoring the fact that, by the time we return home in the late afternoon…
…it’s gray again.
Inevitably, as I pass someone on the stairs heading home, he utters the most hated -and true- phrase that any Seattleite can utter: “It sure was a nice day today; but you know that you just can’t count on it until after the Fourth of July.”