Pharos-Tribune

May 1, 2014

ABBOTT: Vivaldi has nothing on Indiana’s Four Seasons


Pharos-Tribune

---- — Southern Indiana is at the peak of spring blooming, and it is glorious. My Japanese maple has leafed out with vibrant dark red leaves. Our dogwood offered a spiritual nudge by blooming cross-marked leaves on Easter morning. The fragile pear trees punctuate almost every neighborhood along with tulip trees and bushes in pastel shades. Everywhere there is renewal, rebirth, and the reminders that spring means hope.

I’ve lived in Indiana all but six years in Florida and summer in Wisconsin. To me, one of our state’s joys is the regularity of the four seasons.

During my first autumn in Florida, my Fort Wayne friend Doris sent me a yellow mailing envelope full of crusty October leaves. When I opened the envelope, I was overcome by the wonderful smells of an Indiana autumn.

I’ve observed, while there is much beauty in our seasons, there are some things I could live without. I also notice a regional difference between the seasons.

For the past few years in southwestern Indiana, we’ve had four seasons. I call them Ugh, Sneezing, Humidity and Fall Festival.

Ugh is the season of black ice. While last winter brought a record amount of snow, our area is usually cold and gray and icy. We have sleet, freezing rain, drizzle and something called snizzle, and black ice. The sidewalk may appear clear, safe and ready for customers, but one wrong step on black ice and you are done for. While I’m grateful that southwestern Indiana is often spared some of the fiercer weather of the balance of Indiana, black ice is a danger.

The next season is Sneezing.

This morning my husband and I drove to breakfast, and he sneezed from our house to Cracker Barrel. After breakfast, he wiped his eyes from the tears. Were they tears of joy from hearing that twangy cover of “Folsom Prison Blues?”

No, it was just the overwhelming, mind-numbing, sinus-sucking, everyday life in southern Indiana during allergy season. Almost every year, we turn the heat off the same day we turn the air conditioning on. So much for spring.

The end of Sneezing brings us to our longest season in southwestern Indiana, Humidity.

From the first week of May to the early part of October, we will be regaled with Mother Nature’s sweat glands. I moved to the Evansville area from Tampa Bay, Florida.

Having grown up in northern Indiana, I was thrilled to come home and be away from Florida’s pervasive humidity. I was stunned to learn that humidity is markedly worse along the Ohio River than it was in Florida. A possible explanation may be the sea breezes or the evening thunderstorms or our valley geography and all the plants spewing out along the river.

The final season between Humidity and Black Ice is Fall Festival.

Only one week in October, thousands of people will gather every day and night for a week along Franklin Street in Evansville for one of the nation’s largest and oldest street fairs. Humidity sometimes makes an appearance, which can be an ugly surprise for those already volunteering in a food booth over a hot fryer. For many of us, Fall Festival is a favorite season with our favorite goodies, ranging from fried candy bars to sausage burgers.

Indiana is a very long state; weather in The Region (far northwestern corner) can be vastly different from that in Muncie or Madison on any given day. When I went to college at Ball State, my parents west of Fort Wayne often had completely different weather, especially in the winter.

Today there’s usually six to 10 degree temperature difference in winter and summer between West Lafayette (where my father lives) to our little southwestern Indiana town.

We share one season throughout the state, road construction season. I moved to Florida in 1982, and as we drove out of the state, Interstate 65 was being improved. It was still being improved when we moved back. That continuous quality improvement thing is happening today on many parts of I-65.

Two Valparaiso men recently started a Facebook campaign to change the state bird from the cardinal to the white-breasted nuthatch. I’ll have none of that. Perhaps the Indiana state bird should be the orange traffic cone.

Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist and author of “The Luxury of Daydreams.” She can be reached at amymcvayabbott@gmail.com.