A few years back, soon after we moved up into the Santa Cruz Mountains,
I woke up one January morning just before the sun came up, and something was
different. There was a strange blue-white glow coming from the windows. I
“What is it?” Eric asked sleepily.
“Its snow,” I said, gaping out the window. “Its a whole lot of snow.” Snow!
In California! Snow! Whole big heaps of it! Snow! On the lawn, in the trees,
still coming down from the grey sky in the grey dawn in enormous powwdery
I bolted out of bed and immediately began throwing on clothes: long underwear,
jeans, sweaters. Where are my gloves? Where is my hat? There’s no time! There
was SNOW out there, and I had to get out into it. I could not stay inside
a minute longer because it had SNOWED!
I grew up in Boston, the heart of New England, where it snows six months
out of the year. When I left Boston for the Bay Area everyone I knew joked,
well, you’ll never have to shovel a driveway again. And yes, I am thankful
for that. I am thankful for the lack of cold toes, runny noses and icy patches
on the sidewalk. I am thankful there are no more frigid dirty March days where
the big piles of snow and ice sand and dirt on the sides of the road where
the plows put them in Decemeber are still sitting, sitting and rotting away
like the dirty corpses of Winter.
When I moved out here to the Bay Area, California winters seemed very bland.
November comes along, and it rains some. There are cold days, and there are
nice days. Then spring comes, it gets a little warmer, and the rains stop.
The bay area has more of a quiet slide from the wet season to the dry season,
from Summer to Winter without really a Fall or a Spring in between. Sometimes
there’s not much of a Winter at all, and I wonder, where did it go?
I’m told there’s a term for this, for us displaced cold-weather folk who
miss winter: seasonal deprivation. We miss the turning of the seasons, the
clear borders between Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. We miss the dramatic fall
colors, the snows, the first crocus that comes up through the snow in the
springtime. And the snow. Always the snow. I told Eric once that you can tell
that summer has turned to fall because there is a smell to it. That snow has
a smell to it. Eric, who grew up in California, thought I was nuts.
There are some ex-cold-weather folk I know who think I am nuts. If you miss
snow, they say, go to Tahoe. All the snow you need, and you can leave it again
at the end of the weekend. But its not the same. Going to the snow is not
the same has having the snow come to you. It is not the same as waking up
in the morning and discovering that the snow has fallen overnight, those heavy
wet snowstorms we used to call white christmas storms, that coat the entire
landscape with fondant icing and that leave the air cold and still and silent
except for a very quiet whump as a clump of snow falls from a branch somewhere
nearby. It is always a wonder to me when it happens. Each and every time I
wake up in the morning surprised — my god, it SNOWED — and then the excitement
— Oh my god, it SNOWED. Each and every time it is like I am eight years old
again, school has been cancelled, and there is nothing to do all day but get
the sled out of the garage and go out and PLAY.
We get these snows in the Santa Cruz mountains. Not often, just once or
twice a year. But the best part of California snow: three, sometimes four
days go by, the weather changes, warms up, and the snow melts and its gone.
No lingering slush or piles of dirt. No icy driveways or sidewalks. Just enough
snow to be a joy for a few hours in the early morning, just enough to satisfy
seasonal deprivation for a displaced New Englander, but not enough to be an
annoyance. Not enough to require shovelling out the driveway.
This morning I woke up to another snowstorm, four inches of it. I found
my hat and gloves and went out and made a snow angel. It started snowing again
as I wrote this, so now I must go out and spend some time catching snowflakes
on my tongue. Later on I have a snowman scheduled, and I must call the neighbor
kids and see if I can make an appointment for a snowball fight.
I wonder where in the Bay Area I can find myself a sled.