January 16, 2004

winter sun

When we first moved out here, those first few years of sunshine, I felt a delicious sense of getting away with something. Id call people back home and listen sympathetically to their tales of snowed-in driveways and frozen noses while looking outside at the palm trees blowing in the light breeze. Id walk down the street later, in a light jacket or even shirtsleeves, past displays of orange birds of paradise and enormous cacti on peoples front lawns, and Id keep expecting to wake up. What an odd, impossible thing, a place without winter. With the memory of cold still in my bones, I felt like Id stepped through the looking glass and nothing was real anymore.

After a few more years, I started to resent it. Theres something wrong with a place that doesnt have real, intense seasonal changes. Nobody has to dig in and deal with the hard stuff. Besides, I missed the feeling of wind on my cheeks (thirty or forty degree weather, Im talking here, not the current minus twenty thousand back East). I missed changing wardrobes, colorful winter sweaters, those soft furry earmuffs stuck in the back of my drawer, the way your body melts as your blood unfreezes when you get inside after a long walk in the frozen afternoon. The way the air is so clear and cold, like glass. The puffs of breath made tangible. The way the spring easing of seasons feels like a celebration. I would walk through LA in my light t-shirt in fucking January and curse the near-eternal preternatural pact-with-the-devil warmth. I wanted drama, damnit. I wanted to suffer but also to take that pleasure in the chill and in the smoke smell of autumn, the first taste of falling snow in December and the blanket of bluish white layering the countryside, crunching through it with my boots. I hated that I was here and real life was so far away.

Lately I think maybe I romanticized it a tad. Lately I talk to my mother about how shes got the heat up full blast and its still 58 degrees inside the house and I read the reports of the wind chill factor and temperature records broken and so many kids getting frostbite that schools are closed and one shocking story of a hiker who actually camped out overnight in the mountains in New Hampshire and not surprisingly died. I hear and read all that and I think, you know? This warm thing weve got going here? This Do you want to go to the park this afternoon, Damian? and What did you do outside at yard time? and Im bringing my jacket along just in case thing? It still feels like cheating. Like I should be back there in the cold depths of hell too, its my birthright and my blood, but you know? Its kind of nice to be warm.

My apologies to those of you who are suffering right now. I do know what thats like. I remember crying with the cold. Hell, I hope one day to move back there and I know if I do Ill cry and curse again. Maybe thats why I can appreciate this sunbaked California desert so much more right now. Because it may be ephemeral. Id better enjoy it while Ive got it.

Posted by Tamar at January 16, 2004 10:10 PM

It's not so bad.:) In fact, it makes you realize how really not-cold -9°C is. I walked outside today and felt warm.

I grew up in Sacramento, so I know the winters you're talking about. It's a huge relief to go home over Christmas and wear a T-shirt and a jacket outside, but in California you can't sit in the sixth storey of the library and watch the snow fall out the window while you curl up in your coat and sip a coffee and read a book, you know?:) If I ever have to move back to California, I'm going to miss the winter.

Posted by: Beth at January 17, 2004 01:53 PM

Having grown up in Maine and then lived in Kansas City for 12 years and then, moving to the central coast of California, I find I like the subtle changes of the season and do not miss the trappings of winter.

If I must have it, I drive to it and then come back home.

But thanks for the memories.

Posted by: mz. em at January 17, 2004 06:52 PM