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!