Right now, most of North America is under a heat wave, with temperatures reaching into the high 90s and with the heat index in places reaching towards 130. Apart from the obvious fact that such weather can be very uncomfortable, it can be dangerous, and the demand for air conditioning is straining the power grid. Meanwhile, at my home in Montana, it is 67 degrees, with the temperature gradually reaching towards the mid 70s in the afternoon. Far from a source of moisture, and with many mountain ranges between us and the Pacific Ocean, the humidity is low. Above the 45th parallel, a month after summer solstice, the sun still sets after 9 PM, with a long twilight extending close to midnight. At 3500 feet of elevation, even on a hot day, the air rapidly cools at night. In this year, a year of heavy snowpack, the mountains are still tipped with what looks like little spots of white, but which at close range would be large, deep snowfields.

So, in other words, Montana might just be the best place in the United States to be in July or August. Unless, of course, it is an active wildfire season, but lets not think about that. Of course, this isn't confined to Montana, but is true of the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountains. But if Montana had uniformly wonderful weather, everyone would be living here, instead of it being the 3rd least densely populated state. From an economic standpoint, one of the reasons for this is Montana's short growing season and lack of rainfall --- many places of Montana have three month long growing seasons, and frequent droughts.

And, of course, Montana can get cold. That same distance from an ocean that makes the summers pleasantly dry cuts us off from a moderating effect, and an entire week without the temperature going above freezing can be expected in December or January. After a while of living here, my paradigm changed, and instead of thinking of ice as frozen water, I thought of water as ice that had temporarily melted. Along with the obvious discomfort, the snow makes negotiating every aspect of life more difficult. This is especially true when coupled with the short days so far north, with the sun usually disappearing around 5 PM. So it would seem the frigid, dark, and totally unnavigable dead of winter would be the big deal breaker.

For me, it isn't. For one thing, during the winter, I am pretty much clear on the idea that it is winter, and that I am stuck staring at my ceiling fan. And of course, the snow can be quite beautiful. And there is a sense of having accomplished something, to be surviving in truly harsh temperatures. So the winter is the winter, and while it makes things difficult, it is something that I am expecting, and something that fills me with pride.

The toughest time of the year for me is actually the two months between when the snow melts, and when the trees leaf and grass grows. The last snow leaves the ground in March, but the trees don't come into leaf until the beginning of May. During this time, the ground is a color somewhere between yellow and brown, and despite a bright sun and daytime temperatures that can get warm, the nighttime temperature usually goes well below freezing. I still have to wear warm clothing, and outdoor locations are usually still snowlocked. The worst part of it, however, is the sense of disappointed expectations. After all, in April the sun is as high in the sky as it is in August, and yet I am still going through sleet storms and dead grass. I start to forget that summer will exist, green and warm, and feel that the grass will stay tan and dead until October, when the snow starts again.

So if I ever do get chased away from Montana, and all its good qualities, it won't be the brutal winters, or isolation, or the 100 drawbacks of living in the most remote state in the Lower 48. It will just be the disappointment and boredom from staring at dead grass and bare tree limbs for those endless cruel months of March and April.

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