The weirdest things change with geography, I find. I mean, I realized that Massachusetts was a totally different climate from Arizona, but, never having lived outside the desert before, I didn't realize quite what that meant.

The snow doesn't shock me. ("We might be a little hardcore about winter out here," sez Moggie, still in Flagstaff, who actually turned up to work one day in the recent past solely because it was easier to walk to work from her classes than it was to dig her car out of three feet of morning snowfall and go home.) The ice does. Things do freeze over on the mountain plateau, but there aren't a lot of large water sources to bear witness to this. Puddles develop a skim of ice overnight that can be dangerous to the clumsy or inattentive, and there's an artificial pond out in front of one of the new buildings at NAU that goes solid, but rarely more than that. I walked down to the Esplanade one day in January, and was treated to the boggling sight of a load of ducks waddling around on the Charles, which had completely capped over with ice.

The Bostonian view on rain is still a bit weird. The natives make like they're going to melt if they get wet. I get very odd looks when I say I don't care, which, as long as I have a hat on to keep it out of my eyes, I don't. Their idea of 'light rain' would trigger flood warnings in Arizona, where there isn't a bay for it all to run right off to. They don't really even bother to mention the kind of rain that comes in droplets so tiny and omnipresent it doesn't so much fall as just hang in the air, waiting for you to walk into it. They may think that's  fog or mist; I don't know -- I think of fog as the stuff that obstructs your vision, which also sometimes happens. (Cambridge glows orange and gray from the other side of the river, like iron cooling from a forge. The Boston bank is all park at that point, and quite spooky. If there's enough fog, the tree branches cast shadows on the air, which is just mind-boggling for me.) I've seen it snow like that in Flagstaff, but I'd never seen unfrozen water do it until I got here.

The greenery is still all kinds of surprising. When it warms up, there will be sunflowers and morning glories in our side yard. I'm not entirely sure anyone put them there on purpose -- if they did, it was a long time ago. They just keep coming back, because it turns out that stuff grows in areas that get actual rainfall. It took me a good couple of months to connect up the masses of leaves on the front of the porch with that 'ivy' stuff I'd read about in books. It grows in Flagstaff, but not all that happily. You certainly don't lose buildings in it, as has happened to most of the bits of Harvard down by Soldiers Field Road.

I also totally failed to link up the use of cherry wood in Shaker furniture and the apocryphal story about George Washington and the tree with the idea that there are loads of cherry trees out here. The university in Flagstaff received one as a gift from somewhere and duly planted it on campus, and it was very pretty, but you do not get the full impact of hanami without going downtown sometime in late April and seeing just how much of the landscaping has gone all pinkish-snowy with flower petals. Phoenicians think that Parkinsonia aculeata, Carnegia gigantia, and Opuntia phaeacantha count as proper greenery, and fill in with a variety of invasive weeds, so deciduous trees basically all look like 'generic tree' to me -- it was rather eye-opening to see which ones changed color to orange and red in the fall, and to sakura white in the spring.

This means that there are cherries out here, in the same ubiquitous sense that there are oranges in Arizona. Also things like apples and berries and wildlife that doesn't spend 90% of its life hiding desperately in the tiny patches of shade under rocks, trying not to dehydrate. It's wet and squashy for a good chunk of the year, but I can certainly see why a bunch of English people piled out of the boat and went oh thank God, we can eat things that aren't hardtack. I don't imagine seagulls and squirrels are very tasty, but if you've been out in open ocean for three months, you'd probably be ready to eat rocks, as long as they weren't covered in salt spray.

(Squirrels are standard rodents, by the way. Their dialect is not quite the same as Rat, but it's close enough I can communicate fairly well with the squirrels in the park, who are mostly tame in any case. Everyone else seems terrified that they'll bite or something. I can get them to take french fries from my fingers. People get quite bent out of shape over that, which I will never understand -- I'm not disrupting their environmental food source, the human park is their environment, and I am part of their natural food source. I wouldn't feed the assorted vermin in wildlife preserves outside the city, but the ones inside are quite well adapted to living off people. The squirrels in the Common are reasonably civilized, so I feed them leftovers. The geese in the Public Garden, on the other hand, are mean fuckers, and I give them nothing.)

Arizona is not big on fish. Seafood comes on a plate in a restaurant, frozen in bags, or packed into small tins. It was unnerving to run into large cans of Alaska salmon out here -- I was unaware that the way you manufacture those is basically to scrape the scales off, whack off the head and tail, and jam an actual salmon into a can, which you then steam. Fish spine is a very startling thing to run into, if you're not expecting it. The rats think I am the best Mommy ever when I give them a little dish of salmon-flavored vertebrae to play with.  There's also Chinatown, where if you go to the right places, you can buy a wide variety of creepy-looking things that are still conscious enough to object to being sold.

Lobster is also quite a thing out here, which I don't think I will ever get over. Once upon a time, lobster was a net-fouling giant sea bug that fishermen resented, considered trash, and fed to the servants. Someone had a brain wave in the mid-19th century, and convinced the nouveau riche that it was a high-status luxury food item, which suddenly made fishing for them economically viable. It's still very much a swanky expensive thing in areas like the Sonoran desert, where lobster has to be flown in. (Lobster deteriorates very quickly once dead. That's why they keep them in tanks in the front of the restaurant. I've never been able to give the order for a creature to be boiled alive for my dinner, but it's also possible to kill them more humanely by hucking them into an industrial freezer to die of hypothermia, which is also a convenient method of storage, and is how a lot of the un-fancy canned and frozen stuff is treated.) New England seems to only think of lobster as fancy when it's been through the kitchen at a pricey restaurant. During the summer, when apparently the things are legion, they will cheerfully sell you things like a bread roll stuffed with lobster or lobster salad and a side of steak fries for a price about equivalent to what you'd pay for shrimp. Often from a street cart.