As a native Californian, I always get a little miffed when people from other states, usually in the east, say that California has no seasons. I don’t argue with them, never having lived more than a week in any other state. But I see the seasons change around me all year.
I once heard a comedian say that California has two seasons: green and brown. He’s right, in a way. The green season is late winter after the rains have come, and the foothills sprout grass, followed in spring by wild flowers: poppies, lupine, and mustard among others. The brown season is late spring through fall, when that grass has fried in the hot sun and turned to a fire danger. This season is often marked by billows of smoke climbing the already smoggy sky from raging brushfires in the hills.
Like easterners, we can tell it is fall when the leaves on liquid ambar, sycamore, and cottonwood trees turn color. Palms, pines, and pepper trees stay green all year, so we don’t get a totally bare winter landscape. We can mostly tell it is winter because we have to light the furnace and put on a sweater.
Most of us own a raincoat, but not a heavy top coat. I volunteer at the church thrift store, and we have lots of heavy winter coats donated. I think people bought them for a trip to Chicago or Boston, wore them once, and got rid of them. They might have ordered them from a catalog, because it isn’t easy to find heavy coats in California department stores.
So, out my California sliding-glass door I see that fall is here. The sky is cloudy behind the yellowing cottonwoods that grow along our little creek, and my feet in flip-flops are getting cold. Time to put on some shoes, another marker of the change of seasons.
Here is an autumn song about grape vines and love. It already has a melody by Gayle Weiston-Serdan, but it hasn’t been recorded yet. Stay tuned:)
by Pam Bowen
Now the summer heat is over
Take me out to the vineyards.
Let’s walk between the vine leaves turning rust
And leave our double footprints in the dust.
OH, TAKE MY HAND BETWEEN THE LADEN VINES,
GLOWING IN THE SOFTENED LIGHT OF FALL.
REJOICE THE BRIMMING SWEET OF HARVEST TIME.
OUR LOVE HAS COME TO RIPENESS AFTER ALL.
Remember steamy summers when we’d hide
Our loving in the heat of these same vines?
Today we stroll sedately, arm in arm.
The breeze is cool; our closeness keeps us warm.
Are slender, twisted vine stems strong enough
To hold their drooping, heavy clusters up?
Some have gone raisiny, rich in sweetness,
Mellow and waiting for a late harvest.
© Pamella M. Bowen