03/18/2014 10:04 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Not Knowing the Month Is a Good Thing

We were born and raised in the U.S. Midwest, and anyone else who comes from this part of the country knows that it has an effect on your character.

For one thing, if you live in the Midwest you always know what month it is just by what's going on around you. The combination of weather, holidays, sports seasons, and the presence or absence of a farmers' market -- and what produce is currently available at that market -- can instantly pinpoint any time of the year.


Photo by Hugo Ghiara,

And, like most humans, all Midwesterners are born with a small, still voice at the center of their beings. For some, this voice is a spiritual guide, but a Midwesterner's voice is a bit more practical. It says things like, "Pick up salt for the sidewalk and an extra snow shovel while they're on sale. Change the furnace filters this week. Have the air conditioner serviced before June. Buy a bag of kitty litter and some flares for the trunk when you put on the snow tires. Turn off the water to the outside spigots this evening or the pipes will burst tonight. Don't wait until the middle of August to change the coolant in the car like you did last year."

Midwesterners know that, no matter how nice the weather might be at this moment, in a matter of hours we could be snowed in without power for a week or huddled in front of the air conditioner until September to avoid heat stroke.

We're born with a quiet but insistent sense of urgency that has served us well. It keeps us on our toes and thinking ahead, constantly preparing for any extreme of weather. And there will always be extreme weather, sooner or later.

Which is why, now that we live in Ecuador, we're aware that our inner Midwestern voices have changed a bit. Especially now that we're in the mountains, where the weather is so temperate year-round that we need neither heating nor air conditioning...and where the public transportation is so affordable and reliable that we no longer own a car...the sense of urgency in our inner voices has moderated a bit.

Our inner voices no longer say things like "It's January, idiot... make sure your cell phone is charged before you go out or you'll freeze to death if the car breaks down."

Instead, we say things like, "It might be a good idea to check the gas bottle on the grill sometime this week" and "If we go to the market tomorrow we should probably pick up some fresh pineapple, some strawberries or tomatoes... and maybe some eggplant."

Since the produce is always fresh and available all year long, there isn't really much sense of urgency left in these promptings from our inner voices.

Surely, we tell ourselves occasionally up here in the mountains in Ecuador, there must be something dire and life threatening coming down the pike. But there really isn't. The weather rarely changes much. Being 8,000 feet above sea level, but directly on the equator, our daytime temperatures top out at about 75 degrees and our nighttime lows are about 45 to 50 degrees. That's it, every day, all year. We don't have a hurricane or tornado season. And thankfully, we never, ever have snowstorms.

In fact, we often have to check our day planners to remind us what month it is. Without the usual weather or sports cues, it's easy to forget just what time of year it is. And that means we needn't worry about stocking up on weather-related supplies...

That sense of urgency, and all the stress that comes with it, is simply non-existent. Even though we've been born and raised to anticipate a few dozen climactic disasters a year, that part of the northern hemisphere hamster wheel ride has not been hard to give up. And it definitely makes for a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Instead of scurrying about in the Fall to prepare for the onslaught of Old Man Winter, we open a bottle of wine and sit on the terrace until it passes. Sometimes we even share a big bowl of strawberries and cream.

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