Contrary to popular thought that California has perfect winters, we have wind. Not gentle ocean breezes. Rip your table umbrellas out and deposit them in your neighbor’s yard wind. Destructive and bone chilling, these winds blow into town and linger for days. In the summer, they can be furnace blasts, but the worst come whipping through the winter.
California elementary schools assume we will always have mild weather. There is no shelter between buildings and portables. Students have to brave mighty gusts to have lunch and use the restrooms. “Inclement weather” is declared, and all recesses cancelled for the day. Teachers and their classes remain huddled inside their rooms.
Attention spans diminish, and voices grow louder. Pollen kicks up to spark headaches and runny noses. Already sick children gather at the school nurse’s office while she calls their parents.
Meanwhile, palm fronds land like missiles on cars passing on the streets. Ancient branches raise their arms in surrender and fall on parked cars. Dust and leaves swirl in doorways, waiting to blow in.
Wind makes people angry. A local proverb advises not to make any major decisions on a windy day.
Perhaps we shared a haughty chuckle when it was sunny and 80 degrees last weekend and other regions of the country lie buried in snow. We thought ourselves worthy of that song, “California Dreaming.”
Maybe the wind is our punishment for being proud.
Dark windows made our kitchen seem smaller as we sat wrapped up in our sweaters at the dinner table. Our old heater belched out only enough warmth for the central core of our 50’s ranch house, so we stayed in the kitchen or living room as much as possible. I yawned into my pasta for the third time since I’d gotten home from work. Early winter nights tricked us into thinking it was 10:30 pm instead of 5:30 pm. Finally, after cleaning up the dishes our weariness drove us into pajamas and under the covers to surrender to sleep.
Although my body was tired, my mind still sought to settle accounts with the day. Why was I so weary? My week had not been any more arduous than previous months. Yet December seemed to suck the marrow from my bones. In my mind, I could see my calendar, with the final month of 2016 barely hanging on by a staple. For many people, this year could not pass quickly enough, with its disasters, both natural and man-made. In the back of my mind I could still hear their harsh whispers, but my foundation held fast.
As the year wound down to its final days, I could hear its slowing tick tock. Bitter cold weather mirrored my own bleakness. As I looked out into the black night, my unfulfilled dreams blocked the shimmering stars. This year was five years worth of years – musical productions, writing projects, travel, new curriculum, new principal, and my first published articles. New friends made and old friends made closer. But my three year novel still waits, finished but not finished. So many obstacles remain.
And so I suffer a winter sadness, a darkness that encroaches upon my usual positive nature. It feels like the end of a movie, when the magic is over and you have to walk back out into the lobby. I have to leave the writer’s created world to walk back into the real one.
I pull my comforter close around me and close my eyes, hoping to drift into dreams of the year to come.