One can not be considered a Northwesterner if you don't grouse about our endless cool, showery weather during Spring. And it turns out that our pioneer ancestors---more than 150 years ago--were doing the same thing.
Let's go back to 1855 and the town of Steilacoom on Puget Sound's waters. In a hard-hitting commentary in the Puget Sound Courier published at the end of May, Honest John Tompkins chastised his fellow citizens for their "growling" about the weather.
He noted that Spring 1855 started out well:
"Throughout the almost entire month of March last, the people everywhere in the Territory, were rejoicing at the beautiful summer-like weather ... Every one seemed to be perfectly happy and contented, and there was not a countenance to be met with between the Columbia River and the Straits of Fuca, that was not the index of a joyous heart."
But then the weather shifted:
"Well, March went out, April came in, and with it, cold, wet, disagreeable weather, and a universal spirit of discontent, and a disposition to "growl""
"Throughout the entire month, and even up to this, the last day of May, it has been precisely the same, and some amongst us profess to be so thoroughly disgusted with the weather .... that they threaten to leave the Territory altogether."
Well, I have heard that one before....people threatening to move to California or some other warmer clime!
By the end of May the weather had improved and Honest John made the false claim I have heard so often....the idea of balance...if the weather is bad for a while, it will surely be good later (and vice versa). That some kind of omnipotent weather god is ensuring that the yin and yang of weather will be in rough equilibrium. Sounds profound and true. It isn't. And I must admit I have heard some TV weathercaster types saying the same kind of thing.
"Is it not fair to presume or reasonable to expect, that there will be a large number of wet disagreeable days in the Spring, if there be but few in the Winter, the season in which it was natural to expect them? Most assuredly. And again, now that really fine weather has broke upon us---may we not reasonably anticipate, for a series of months, the same clear and bracing atmosphere, the same un-cloudy days, and deliciously cool nights for which the summers of Washington Territory are so justly and widely celebrated?"
Then Honest John takes on God's work in putting the complainers in their place. The kind of work I try to model in my blog.
"Men from New England... You have "growled" a good deal at the weather this Spring, have you not? ... a few short years since, among the bleak hills of your native States, you shivered beneath the fierce Northern blasts that swept from their summits, for five long winter months in each, and then that for three more you were almost constantly subjected to those damp, unwholesome, and consumptive-engendering fogs which are driven by the raw East winds, from "Newfoundland's Banks" into every "nook and corner of the Northeastern section?"
I wish I could write like that. "Damp, unwholesome, consumptive-engendering fogs"!!
And then he took out the heavy guns for those from the warm, tropical southeast:
"Men from the "sunny South!"... for you are ... no freer from blame. Has not the truth many times occurred to your minds ... that the enervating influence upon both mind and body of your own tropical climate, and the sluggish vapors arising from your extensive swampy lands, impregnating the entire atmosphere with contagious diseases, are more to be feared and deprecated, than the rains and comparatively cold weather of Washington Territory"
"let us have no more of your foolish and wicked repinings at the season."
Wise words for all of you to remember.
But some of you insist on complaining. Surely, the spring of 2011 was worse than any of ancient memory. Fine, let's check the numbers, with the assistance of Mark Albright, past State Climatologist.
The average temperature in 1855 for April/May was 51.6 F at Steilacoom which lies between SeaTac and Olympia. The April/May 2011 mean temperature averaged over SeaTac/Olympia was 48.0 F, considerably cooler than Steilacoom experienced 157 years ago in 1855. The coldest April at Steilacoom over the 19 years between 1850 and 1868 was 45.2 F in 1859. This is warmer than the 44.6 F recorded in April 2011 at SeaTac/Olympia. (Please...no global warming skeptic comments!)
So complainers among you take heart...last spring's cool/dampness was far worse than the weather that unsettled our tough, stout pioneer ancestors.
This spring is a pussycat in comparison.