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El Niño and me

I never gave much thought to El Niño until I moved to Florida in 1997.  I suppose there must have been El Niños before then…years of unseasonable seasons…but I wasn’t aware of any great pattern to them (of course, I grew up in the days of the comic-relief weather-guy…the one who invented new words to describe tomorrow’s weather: foggle for fog + drizzle; smaze for smoke + haze.)

The ‘97-‘98 El Niño was a strong El Niño, but since it was my first winter down here, I didn’t quite grok how unusual it was.  Mostly, I kept waiting for it to get, like, wintery, which it never did, despite the days upon days of rain that kept the decorative bits of roof outside my living room windows so flooded that not only did the tree frogs breed in them, the tadpoles actually had enough time to turn into frogs.

We’ve had a couple of milder El Niños since then….too mild to grow frogs, but enough that when we get the word—around the middle of hurricane season—that we’re heading into an El Niño pattern, I know to expect a wet “dry season” and an outside chance of cold, rather than just cool, temperatures.

The winter just past, which was predicted to be “stronger than average,” lived up to its billing.  I got cold enough in January that I…. dug out turtleneck sweaters and sweatshirts that were still in their Oklahoma packing boxes and it rained.  I could have grown frogs…if the cold weather hadn’t killed them first.

Even without hurricane rainfall last year, we wound up with several extra inches of precipitation and based on the amount of rain we’ve gotten so far this year, it should be June 10, not April 2 and lakes that have been meadows for the last several years have water in them again!

But the first thing you learn when you move to this state is that Things Grow In Florida.  Despite all the “Sunshine State” nonsense, the local climate is a harsh one.  Mostly, we’re sand, through which water passes quickly enough to qualify as overall desert conditions, and, where we’re not sand, we’re swamp, where water lingers until the heat dries it up.  (At least that’s how it is here in the middle of the state…things are a bit different north and south.)

Anyway, the local flora is adapted to grow like crazy whenever there’s water, so things grew last fall, all the way up until January, when the temperatures dropped into the twenties for ten day and then they froze and turned to mush or straw.

Then it started raining again.  Know what happens when you add water to dead flora?  Mold happens.  Mold in vast quantities.  Visible mold.  Veritable clouds of mold rising up from the ground whenever the wind blows.  Itchy mold, sneezy mold, and mold that makes your head feel as though it’s been filled with cotton candy.

The rain went on so long that Spring was delayed.  Trees that should have done their thing a month ago, stayed dormant until roughly the middle of last week when the azaleas and other not-so-showy shrubs started blooming.

So, now we have shrub pollen, plus tree pollen to go with all the mold and if I want to see, or breathe, or think, or not itch all over, I’ve got to take allergy meds.

It doesn’t matter which meds.  They all pretty much work for me and if I only have to take them for a few days at a time, it’s really not too bad, but this year, I’ve been taking the stuff twice a day for over a week now and the dreams have started again.

Most of my allergy-med dreams are more “theater-of-the-absurd” than nightmares.  I’ve even gotten some decent stories out of them, but last night I had a night terror—the first in years.  I have no memory whatsoever of the dream itself, but I woke up shouting—my own name, I think, or “Here.  Here.”  I was very disoriented, which goes with the terror—I had no idea where I was; what, when or who I was, either.  I was just sort of crouched in bed, half up on my hands and knees, breathing hard and wondering WTF?  I couldn’t move for a few moments, possibly because my mind was so empty I didn’t know I could move.

The whole “becoming me again” process probably lasted less than a minute and—because I’ve had night terrors before—once it was physically over, it was emotionally over, too.

But I find myself reluctant to turn out the lights tonight and really, really looking forward to the end of this El Niño-fueled weather!

6 comments to El Niño and me

  • When lawyers that I know (including myself) have nightmares like that it is generally connected to one of those cases that scares us. Cases that get inside our heads and won’t leave us alone. Usually, they are more than a little out of control. That may be why so many lawyers drink too much. Of course, writers have a rep for that as well.

  • CJ Cherryh

    Ow. Not good. Can you take the Benedryl/Sudafed combo? It works for us. One benedryl, one sudafed for night, one benedryl 2 sudafed for day.

    That is so bad. I’ve had a few…especially when I was back in Oklahoma. But nothing quite that bad.
    Usually when I have a nightmare, it’s with an edge of humor: Jane and I keep losing track of each other in St. Petersburg Russia, which turns out to have 10,000 bridges, with different weather on each one, and we can always see and wave at each other, but we don’t have cellphones, and when we each try to get to where the other is, the other one of us has made the wrong move and is now on another bridge.
    I’m sure there’s something psychological in that. I have had the same dream more than once.

    Either that or I’m rescuing all the neighborhood kids from the Nazis by going through endless intersecting tunnels…

    I seem to dream about frustrating situations…

    • Lynn

      I seem to recall a dream about Bren and sandwiches that made it into one of the early Atevi novels… 😉

  • smartcat

    Benedryl puts me out like a light so I only use it night if allergies are particularly bad. I use Loratadine (Claratin) every day, with long acting sudafed on high pollen count days. I also use Flonase and a very low dose inhaler avery day and a fast acting inhaler for emergencies. I have been doing this year round for about five years now…… have had one small bout of bronchitis and kept allergies under control. I think the important thing is to find what works for you and stick with it.
    Ah DREAMS! Sometimes surreal in funny ways: Dayglo talking cats explaining the mysteries of the universe was a recent one.
    BTW thanks for providing a civilized space for us.

    • Lynn

      If I’d been paying attention, I’d have realized that I needed to front-load my Flonase. It’s pretty effective, at least against the nasal/congestion symptoms, but at least one of the trees around here produces a pollen that produces more of a contact reaction: my palate itches. Typically, I don’t realize there’s a problem until I’ve absent-mindedly rasped the roof of my mouth raw. I can squirt some topical anesthetics on the problem, but, mostly, I just have to wait it out.

      Fortunately, we’ve had some rain and the humidity’s rising (Summer…here we come) and so I’ve been able to get off the twice-daily meds.

      ‘Course…now we’re dealing with blind mosquitoes…I can handle eating bugs by accident, but inhaling them…that’s just gross.

      Ghods, how I love Florida

  • Jane


    I am virtual allergy-drug free up here, thank goodness. I’ve had some doosey dreams, too. Hope it’s eased off by now. (Can you tell, I’m catching up on my blog reading?)