When forced to read the poems of T.S. Eliot at school, one of the lines that stuck was: "You had such a vision of the street as the street hardly understands."
When I think of it now, what comes to mind is looking out of the window of a hotel in a grimy industrial city in the early morning as people trudged by on their way to work, the street still unaware of the joylessness passing over it.
By contrast, waking up on the first morning I ever spent in Southern California what I think of is sunlight coming through the window and clear blue skies. I know it sounds too much like Disney, but that is how it has been on countless mornings ever since.
Not this past week, however, when almost every day the whole of the Los Angeles basin and its 13 million inhabitants were covered in a moist, gray, clammy cloud. Add to that the gloom brought on by waking too early because of the hour coming off that I wrote of in these columns last week, and I had to force Eliot out of my mind as I headed for my usual early hike.
But the miracle of California was not to be denied. At one point every day on the brief drive up Angeles Crest Highway to the trailhead at the national forest fire station, just two miles from Foothill, the curtain suddenly parted and I was instantly in a bowl of mountains where every peak was bathed in sunshine: going from black and white to Technicolor, Kansas to Oz, Main Street to Toontown in a few yards.
Winston Churchill, Britain's bulldog of a prime minister, had the same vision in the most depressing period of World War II, when he urged his fellow citizens to hold on until the world could walk again on "the broad sunlit uplands."
But even for him it took five years. Isn't it a bit like magic that for us that world is only few minutes away?