10 June 2012

reflections: differences between being in Sitka and Cleveland

I'm aware that a couple of my recent posts may not have been as positive as I would have liked (products of exhaustion and travel), so I will attempt to keep this post more neutral or positive. This may be difficult, as I intend to compare the place where I grew up with the place that my family has chosen to live.

The most obvious difference between Sitka and Cleveland is the weather. Everyone who visits Cleveland in the summer from somewhere drier always comments on the oppressiveness of the humidity. Similarly, the winters are oppressive to people who live in warmer places. Sitka has daily temperatures of 45-65 Fahrenheit and 80-90% humidity on a regular basis. You'd think that Cleveland would be a relief after that, but it's the exact opposite. The key is that the high humidity in Sitka almost always results in drizzle or rain, whereas the warm humidity in Cleveland just hangs everywhere around you, inducing sweat. Also, we are all VERY acclimated to the cool.

18 hours per day versus about twelve. The big difference is that I've never sunburned in Sitka.

Wow. At home, we have eagles and ravens around the house all the time. We see some hummingbirds and sparrows or finches, but the big birds are about it. We don't live in the right places to be seeing deer or bears on a regular basis, and the marine life isn't visible from our house at this time of year.

In Cleveland, however, my grandfather's bird feeders have made this place crazy. At any given time, there might be two blue jays, a cardinal, a red winged blackbird, and a handful of sparrows all at one of the three main feeders. In addition, there will probably be a few squirrels preparing an invasion. The other evening, we saw a pair of young bucks walking through the front yard and across the street. This place really lacks large predators.

OK, it's not even worth pretending to be neutral here. Sitka wins, hands down. I miss Raven Radio, I miss our grocery store, and I miss the people who have developed a caring small-town culture.

I constantly do Sitkan things while driving (forgetting to check the speedometer, stopping to let cars from side streets in front of me, waiting for pedestrians who don't expect a car to stop for them).

Going into Giant Eagle the other day was a shock. All that space seemed to result in no greater selection than at SeaMart - there was just more of everything on the shelves. In fact, there were a lot of places (in the veggie section, even) where our rural store that relies on barges and planes was better stocked than the one with daily truck deliveries. Even more amazingly, some of Sitka's prices were competitive.

Turning on the radio is a weird mix of nostalgia for the radio I heard growing up and sadness that most people simply don't know that radio can be done like it is at KCAW.

It is good to get in a lot of time with family. It's been two years since the entire families have visited, though, so there's a lot of relearning each other.

The biggest adjustment for me is scale. We've confined our visit mostly to a small area of the eastern suburbs of Cleveland so far, but this place is so much bigger than Sitka. Everything is bigger - the roads, the traffic jams, the stores, even the houses. Unfortunately, this means that people just don't know each other the same way as they do in a small town, so they talk to each other differently and are far more capable of pretending not to see each other. This was painfully evident at a Wendy's yesterday (one that I've been visiting with family members since I was in kindergarten or earlier and whose decor has not changed in that entire time), when the clerk at the cash register helped us make our order with as much personal care and consideration as a touch-screen ATM. It would be just as efficient and a whole lot cheaper (and possibly less impersonal) to have turned the register around and let us put in our own order without her there. I remarked to my father that all throughout Canada and small-town USA, we'd grown accustomed to service with a smile and the appearance of genuine care. Oh, well.

The Kids
Our kids really miss a lot of stuff about being in Sitka. A lot. However, they have a big back yard to play in here that is full of grass. They are excited about getting to the local pool and they have bikes to play with here (a huge driveway, flat sidewalks, and a walking/running trail are much easier to learn on than what we have at home). They do miss their friends, but exploring this house and spending time with family is still very exciting to them and they will eventually re-establish themselves on a daily schedule.

Ugh, sweat. I'll do another post soon about our first impressions on digging through my grandfather's house, but that's a completely different topic. In short, the man was interested in everything, maintained everything, and never threw anything away. Anything.

1 comment:

  1. i haven't seen anything negative in your comments...they are you at your realistic best. and i enjoy them. maybe part of that is from missing getting to spend the time that we did in our small town in holbrook which, while not heaven on earth, was actually one of the better places i've lived in a lot of ways. that said, i yearn for the day when i can experience a place like sitka for myself. i think i've had it a few times, though not for the amount of time you have...enjoy and good luck and if we can't visit perhaps we can talk while we're in more or less the same time and space...