Spring snuck into the northern California foothills about three weeks ago. (Yes. It was only February, probably the coldest, harshest month of winter in the rest of the Northern Hemisphere.) It was 68 degrees out and sunny. Today, everywhere you look there are ornamental fruit trees in full bloom—glorious, rounded clouds of pink or white—and there are daffodils showing off their sunny yellow faces in lawns and gardens everywhere. Here and there, tucked into quiet corners and unexpected spots, there are tiny crocuses in a rainbow of pastels. And many of the deciduous trees have already put on their fine, yellow-green sheaths of perfect, unfurling new leaves.
Spring is pretty, I’ll give it that.
On the mostly-still-wild, chaparral-covered hillsides that surround and permeate this foothill community, the redbud shrubs and the manzanitas are fixing to bloom. Soon, the redbuds will be dressed in showy suits of startling, smile-inducing purply-pink; the tough manzanitas will be covered in tiny, pinkish-white blooms that look like upside-down faerie cups. It’s the only time of the year (in my humble opinion) that this tinder-dry chaparral comes close to pretty.
The squirrels are playing tag in the live-oaks and yesterday, I heard birds singing—something I haven’t heard since leaving my mountain home 18 months or so ago.
So. Accept it, Wren. Spring is extra-early this year—and that means an extra-extra-early summer heating up, with malevolent glee, in the wings. But just as I wrapped my head around that fact, this region’s version of winter decided to make a brief comeback.
The first rainstorm arrives tomorrow, followed by two or three more throughout the coming week. Rain! Wind! Sorta-cold temperatures! Yay!!
Like the rest of the country, we’ve had a strangely mild, scary-dry winter season. Except for higher up in the mountains, winters in this part of California are always mild, though, so this wasn’t really a surprise. Still, in a normal rainy season (which starts in late December and lasts, usually, until mid-March) we usually get a decent (read minimal, barely enough) amount of rainfall. The temperature becomes cool in the daytime and cold overnight. Winter here often means frost in the mornings. While parkas and heavy wool overcoats overdo it to the extreme, the northern California valley/foothill winter is perfect for sweaters, cardigans and trench coats (with liners for the cold-blooded). An umbrella is occasionally handy, but not vital.
This winter it’s been almost uniformly warmish. Daytime temps have rarely gone below 55 degrees. There’s been so little rain that the snowpack in the mountains, which the entire state depends upon for water, are at 40 percent of normal. We’ve needed no warm clothing this year. (Except for my mother, who emerged from the womb chilly and hollering for a sweater. She bundles up anytime the temperature drops under 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoors, with the thermostat on the heat pump set to a thrifty 68, she dresses in several layers and wraps up in an electrically heated throw whenever she sits down. In contrast, since moving down to the valley foothills to live with her, I wear T-shirts and jeans, no socks, and keep a sturdy Japanese hand-fan near at all times. We are very different. Sometimes I wonder if I’m actually related.)
Last night, the local weatherguy warned us of these imminent, incoming,
wonderfully winter-ish storms. He could hardly hide his glee. You can’t blame him: imagine how truly boring it would be to be a meteorologist in California, where the forecast for all but a few weeks of the year is for sunshine, clear skies, mild temperatures and a steady barometer reading on the high end? Where even fluffy white cumulous clouds rarely make an appearance? Where a windy day rates a Severe Weather Warning?
Well, I didn’t need Dandy Dave to tell me the weather was changing. I’d already been aching furiously all day. Both hands were screeching at me. And my bursitis hips were much worse than usual. Sheesh. Who needs a TV weather prognosticator when your own body acts as your personal Early Warning System?
The Storms are approaching with molasses-like slowness. The first, as I write this, is just now touching the far, northwest corner of the state, roughly 350 miles from here. The actual rainfall is expected to be fairly light and won’t start until sometime tomorrow. But ahead of the storm is some cloudiness—a bit of that is here already, tempering the brightness of the sun, and it’s 10-degrees cooler than yesterday. A light, fresh breeze is whispering. (Wind, my mother would call it. She’d call it a gale but won’t because she knows I’d laugh at her.)
And the point of this post? I felt like writing but didn’t have anything much new to write about. Why not the weather? Why not write about the promise of rain—a weather phenomena I love, personally, but that we’re also in desperate need of if we want to flush toilets or water flower beds once summer arrives in, like, April. My mental health needs this weather. I’ve missed two winters at
home, now—and anyone who has read this blog for long knows how I love the snow, my woodstove and hot, homemade soup.
In other news, Mom’s pacer incision is healing nicely. She’s still tiring easily, but the cardiologist told us to expect that until she recovers completely from the surgery and her body gets used to the pacemaker. Her mysterious, phantom bladder infection symptoms and general malaise have totally gone. Her appetite is improving—this morning, she’s already had a sweet roll, two slices of toast with butter, two chicken legs and she just wandered back upstairs with a couple of cookies to eat with her coffee. Her usually diet between early morning and noon consists of a cup of coffee and a sweet roll.
Big difference, and a positive one. She’s doing well.
And me? I’m waiting for those storms.