19 Nov 2010

Shorts

That's it. Season's definitely over, see you next year. Or so I felt as I rolled up my favorite pair of shorts yesterday and tucked them away in my suitcase. As I am writing this, I am heading north and east, leaving the balmy climates of Arizona behind me and heading into the northern winter.

To be fair, the shorts got to see a fair bit of use this year, much more in fact than they usually would. This is largely due to my new home and the travel pattern extending across the southern border from there. My knee-longs were first deployed to the flowery fields of Tennessee in early April. Leisurely walks along Ottawa's Rideau Canal in May prepared them for more strenuous exercise to come: Hikes in the Swiss mountains in June, the green hills of Vermont in July and the national parks of Québec in August and September. They would have very much enjoyed the warm autumn sun of October in D.C., had their owner not left them at home after poorly researching destination temperatures. But they got another chance to bask under the desert sun this week, once more taking in some fresh air before it is finally time to go into bottom-closet hibernation.

Life is easy in shorts, and while Asians are rarely observed wearing them and Europeans usually confine them to casual environments, North Americans (along with Ozzies, from what I can tell) have no inhibitions to flaunt them in every context and setting. Although I still frown upon that "bermudas + white socks + sneakers" look, I start to appreciate its benefits more as my perception of the United States changes to the one of an essentially southern country. New York lies on the same latitude as Naples, and the rest of the nation extends to the south of that. Summers are long, hot and in some places humid, and the growth of the southern states in recent decades is a testimony to the advance of air condition. That leisurely relaxed look may have something to do with American values (and silhouettes!), but climate has got to play a far larger role than I had previously assumed.

Canada, naturally, is a different story. But from the many cheerful encounters with Canadian snowbirds joining me on hikes among the red rocks of Sedona, and in the malls of Scottsdale, Canucks are eager to blend in the moment they head south. With blending in being a Swiss virtue as well, my white socks saw almost as much sun this year as the shorts did (although I stopped short of committing this fashion crime on my European jaunt, for fear of serious social punishment).

Still feeling the sun's tingle on my sand-blasted skin, it is hard to believe that snow may waiting for me in Montréal, and the hockey season is in full swing. And yet, even these fleece-lined thermal pants can be a harbinger of joy: A steaming cup of tea after a walk through winter wonderland, a cozy night tucked away under a blanket in a countryside cabin, skiing the powdery slopes under bright blue skies - there is clearly more to winter than just dark depressing days spent adding and removing layers of fabric.

One of the things I am most excited about, however, is an upcoming trip to get my ritual treatment against winter depression. With the exception of last year, I've been exposing my body and soul to this comprehensively nourishing cure at the same reputed institution for over 10 years, and its impact usually remains visible until well after it's time to put shorts on again. Intrigued? Watch this space - and European airports near you!

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