December 9, 2008
One of the things I enjoy is variable weather. In my 24 years in southern California, that was defined as rotational shifts between Very Hot and Dry season, Even Hotter and Extraordinarily Dry season, Wildfire season, closely followed by Wafting Ash season, which is often segued by Sudden Torrential Rain season, which leads to the famous Mudslide season, starkly abutted by the Further Hot and Dry season, and of course, who can forget that beloved classic, Earthquake season. Rarely a dull moment.
Anyone who says it’s just sunny all the time in L.A. has never lived there. They don’t know what it’s like to pack up a flame-backlit car with all their worldly belongings on a too-regular basis; nor what it’s like to resolutely sit among those belongings as they lay dinged and scattered randomly on the floor from time to time, nor the eerie feeling on the back of their neck when the Santa Ana winds blow hurricane strength while the thermometer reads a bone dry 83 degrees and the sun beats down, nor what it feels like to skid to the side of the road, as tires lose traction and hydroplane because since it never rains in southern California, the road builders never thought to design proper drainage for all the times the downpours are of historic proportions. Because, after all, it never rains in southern California. Until it does.
I’ve noticed that here in these northern islands the seasons are a lot better behaved, with less life-threatening drama. Oh, there are the once-in-a-decade blizzards that shut out access to the world for a few days, and mighty winds that down trees which then block driveways. Freezes can turn small depressions in the rural roads to miniature black ice skating rinks on which no truck, tutu or not, can avoid demonstrating a sloppy figure eight.
Hailing from New York, I do not think that the usual 40’s and low 50’s degree December weather here could be called “cold” with a straight face. And it doesn’t rain much here; less than half the downpour of Seattle or New York. What it can do, though, is drip, drip, drip… impressively steadily sometimes; a light misty/drizzly/constant coasting of damp that I happen to greatly enjoy. This is because, having read the first paragraph, you realize that after 24 years frying my brains over medium in the So Cal skillet, I suffer from Post Traumatic Drought Syndrome. Yup: when it so much as fogs up here much less rains, I get very, very happy.
Island winters offer variations from day to day, and from hour to hour. The sky changes so rapidly that it’s more visually entertaining than clicking channels on the TV remote control. In my case, since I don’t get TV reception at the house, that’s a lucky thing. The past few days, for instance, have alternated between dark gray rainy ones with a cloud cover so low you can’t see the deer standing in the road, and those so astonishingly bright, blue, cloudless, sunny and warm that you can’t believe it’s not a movie set and the props department is going to show up and take down the facades of the perfect islands in the shimmering water. Some days offer both extremes in one. You just never know. I like this.
The photo above was snapped on a gray, yet very clear and warm afternoon last week. Mount Baker’s refraction (not in this frame) was enormous, and the stillness of the scene soothed any aspect of my psyche that needed unruffling. From this spot, the city equivalent of a block from my front door, I can see at least five different islands. At least four of them are represented here: the one from which I compose; little Turn Island (and it’s teeny atoll) to the right; Shaw in the middle distance; and Orcas in the far distance. Millimeters further right in the snapshot would be Lopez, had my camera been set to a wider view.
Just as the weather bobs and weaves and keeps me guessing, every one of these islands has a distinct character that creates a collective diversity that mimics the atmosphere surrounding them. At first glance, things look one way. Closer inspection from time and observation divulges so much more. I’ve lived here just over a year and a half now, and am into my second winter. I am so grateful for everything that sparks my attention, and I dance to the sun and to the rain and to these knobby isles on which everything, including me, lands.