At quick glance, autumn in southern California looks a lot like summer, and suspiciously similar to spring. The magnolia sheds year-round, and year-round gardens flower. I'm coming up on ten years since I moved here from Boston, and now see the seasonal changes: mulberries in June, black widows in October, and those twice-yearly Seussian jacaranda trees that turned my head around the first year and haven't lost their stun. But, still, at quick glance, it's the same.
For those of us from elsewhere, nostalgic for other weather, we can be much like the protagonist in Ray Bradbury's story, "All Summer in a Day." In my 9th grade year, some time after PBS made a melancholy film short of the story (like everything, now online), I spent lunchtime in the library reading. Anything I found there was, I knew, more satisfying than noisy cafeteria dramas. Upon discovering the collection of Bradbury stories, for the first time I considered writers and their varied literary careers. For good or bad, the moment was brief. Several weeks into the school year, I took my PB&J downstairs to choir, and though I remained a voracious reader, music took the lead. Now I wonder - was it the endless blue Los Angeles sky that inspired Bradbury's story? Growing up here, did he wonder fantasize about LA's rainy opposite?
Last week marked the tipping point wherein daytime slips further away and dark tucks us under its cover with a steamy mug and a book. My 12-year-old tells me every day how much she likes autumn, though winter is her favorite. That's the privilege of growing up in southern California. I'm still recovering from three decades in the northeast. I recently tried explaining Seasonal Affective Disorder, but there's no way to describe to a child who has only experienced intermittent rainfall how winter swipes the Technicolor world into shades of gray.
But autumn is middle ground. The equinox, the balanced moment between light and dark. Growing up with the lunar-calendar-based Jewish holidays, I'm still attuned to the moon and seasonal markers. I still watch the sky at night and try, despite Los Angeles, to honor the seasons' shift. Last week I wondered about the shift balance and what the darker side of the year means this time around. I still have work to do before 2017 runs out, and longer evenings beg me to study late. But then Darby and I ran off to the ragged central coastline of Big Sur and all I can think of now is the syrupy roll of the Pacific and its swirling sheet of auburn kelp. All I can hear are the thundering waves.
Many years ago, I slept one night in Israel's Negev Desert. That starlit sky and this week's Big Sur milky way are pressed together like related books on a shelf. Not even a slice of moon shrouded the glittering dark.
As usual, this blog is unfinished. Just thoughts getting thrown down willy nilly. Another nugget of an idea to grow later into an essay or poem. Or maybe just to remind me when I read this later on to find a picnic table under a night sky far from a city.