It’s been chilly here in Hawaii of late. Snow has settled on the summit of Mauna Kea. In fact, the weather has been inclement. Lots of rain, with great bursts of howling winds that drive it sideways.

Longtime Hawaii residents take a lot of heat, so to speak, from our friends and family in colder climes when we discuss temperatures below 70 degrees as “chilly.” When the Mercury heads that far south here, hoodies and skullcaps come out, and not for the fashion statement. It’s a topic of conversation for us. But the mistake that our compatriots in less hospitable latitudes make when they mock our marvel and seeming timidity at our winter weather is that we’re complaining. We’re not.

When, say, 85 percent of your days are filled with sunshine and warmed by temperatures that to tend cling around the 80-degree mark, it is remarkable when a ten-to-twenty degree dip comes our way. Residents who live in the higher altitudes of the summits on Maui and the Big Island may be an exception to the rule, but even those hearty souls know when the chill sets in.
For many of us the temporary chill, if we’re permitted to use the term, is associated with the holidays, with Christmas break for the kids, and with fickle but often pristine conditions for ocean enthusiasts. It’s a seasonal attitude adjustment, and we look forward to it. It often comes after a long spell of “Kona weather,” when the trade winds desert us and we swelter in front of oscillating fans or seek the refuge of climate controlled environments or the never-failing refreshment of the ocean or cool mountain streams. We do complain about that.
So when our cold weather pays a call, we talk about it. That inclination is always met by dismissive scoffs and “you’re so cute” responses from those who live where it’s colder. “Are the newscasters really saying that it’s cold? It’s sixty-five degrees! Are you crazy? I would kill to live in this weather!”

I’ve worked and traveled in sub-zero temperatures, and I’m sure that my fellow kamaaina share my astonishment that anyone would choose to do so. Are the newscasters saying that it might get above freezing later this month? It’s twelve degrees outside and I haven’t felt my toes for a week and a half! I would kill not to live in this weather!

When we get the “you don’t know what cold is!” treatment from incredulous snowbirds, we most often respond with the same disbelief that they express, but it’s a disbelief that anyone would live where the cold is a cruel and constant hindrance to getting on with what needs to be done every day. We do know what cold is here in Hawaii. It’s why we live here.

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