Greeting the Season
Nothing annoys the natives quite so much as all those transplanted Easterners and Midwesterners who start complaining at this time of year that there aren’t any real seasons in California and that it won’t feel like Christmas without snow. We try to be patient. After all, these are the same people, we suspect, who have not yet discovered the escape routes to use when a SigAlert immobilizes the freeways and who don’t know that it’s still possible to travel all the way from, say, Pasadena to Long Beach without going near a freeway. (It’s a straight shot down Atlantic Boulevard through Alhambra, Monterey Park and other interesting towns.)
But, while the newcomers must search out their own alternative routes to work, we can assure them that Southern California has distinctive seasons--more subtle, perhaps, than in New England or Chicago, but unmistakable nevertheless.
Here, fall doesn’t splash itself across the landscape in a single weekend, doesn’t require Southern Californians to waste precious afternoons raking up the leaves in the back yard. Instead, it announces itself in small ways--a nip in the air, 6-year-old soccer players suited up on Saturday mornings, irresistible nursery ads heralding pansies, ranunculus, Iceland poppies and the year’s prime planting time. Spring, too, creeps up on the unsuspecting starting in late January; then, in about mid-March, the acacias along Interstate 5 burst into yellow bloom, the bluffs near the Pacific are festooned with multicolored ice plant and spring officially arrives. And is there anything so glorious as a California summer once the overcast days and foggy nights of June give way to months of brilliant sunshine? Summer means beachgoing, picnics at the Hollywood Bowl and after-dinner tennis with that distinctive perfume of eucalyptus somewhere in the background.
When winter rolls around, some misguided souls may actually dream of a white Christmas; these are the folks who have to be hit in the face with that cold, wet horror called snow to know that winter has arrived. For most Southern Californians, an occasional glimpse of snow atop the local mountain peaks suffices; real snow lovers are advised to relocate there or to the high desert. Even for flatlanders, a Southern California winter can be dangerous and destructive, as last week’s devastating windstorms and fires attest. The driving rains not only snarl the freeways but trigger deadly mudslides as well. The occasional freezes inland can squeeze the life from fragile impatiens, from hardy bougainvillea and from entire grovesof orange trees.
But no one who has lived a while in Southern California would ever mistake winter, with its hazards and its crystal skies and its flowering bulbs, for any other season of the year. Of course Christmas is coming: The paperwhite narcissus is blooming on the patio.