Monday, September 18, 2006

Happy New Year!

The year starts for me in September. September has always seemed the most hopeful month for me. It’s still hot, but by sundown you can feel the chill trying to cut through the dust of the day. Summer is going to being its creep back to the agriculture valleys east of the coast, where it’ll hang on until the rains take the whole valley, up to the foothills of the Sierras.

In Northern California, Summer is the dead zone in the year. The grasses turn tow-head white, they crackle when you walk on them and the wheaty heads of fox-tail stick to your socks. The hill give off a glare that gives you a wince for three straight months, and gives you the strange sensation of floating in a cloud of light. Not as pleasant as it sounds.

The poison oak goes waxy and fire-red, and you swear the heat wakes up a sinister sentience in the disgusting plant. It’s lying in wait, plantily, that is, as a sentient plant might. Oily little bastards. The natural disasters are meaner: wild fire and strange oceanic blooms. We learn to (falsely) associate tectonic forces with the windless sterile blanket of summer. Earthquake weather we call it, because it makes us skittish and rabbity. It reminds us that Karma can take us up at any moment.

Dust and pollen coat your car. Cats have loud sex. Summer is four months of feeling obliged to drink watery Mexican beer. Idiots have daytime weddings in July.

In Fall, the ambient moisture picks up and the hills slowly go green again. The winter rains bring a lush green, and the cows come down to the side of the road again (in the places where you might find cows, obviously. In Berkeley, cows are scarce on the ground.) On a drive through Northern Marin county down Sir Francis Drake Boulevard (Drake reportedly got into some mischief with Spanish Galleons off the Marin coast back when people did that sort of thing) during the rains the green goes acid bright, and the tarmac of the road goes blacker and bottomless in contrast. With the crags and the oaks, you’d think you were in Ireland or New Zealand, but the towns all have Spanish names.

Even the autumnal disasters are stories of overabundance: mud slides and flooding, silting over the floor of Central Valley with more nutrient rich loam.

I think one reason my year starts in September is a residual sense of purpose that is left over from school. The term begins, new stuff, new serious, the anticipation of some minor life puzzle solved. Ruby is going through that now, during her first few weeks of Kindergarten. Already her school has had “Talk Like A Pirate Day” and some earnest nature types have brought in a MONKEY and a TREE SLOTH. Live, mind you. (A big day in my elementary school career would one in which two kids have a fistfight or someone steps in dog shit.)

The college students are back, too, as well as football. Football is like the weather for people who don’t have the sense to look out a window: it’s something to talk about in lieu of having something to talk about. There is special edge that my patience is set upon when I am forced to listen to football conversation; guys second guessing coaches, talking about the little sideshow drama in what amounts to an entertainment monopoly.

(It’s like getting really passionate about the internal politics of an insurance company you don’t work for. I don’t get it.)

Fall mean bars become more amenable, Scotch becomes more manageable, the windup to Christmas is coming, that weird rotten leaf/smoke smell comes back, we get skunks in our backyard, and the crap movies have gone out of the theaters.

I dunno. I’m glad it’s fall.

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Blogger G. said...

Great post. Autumn is my favorite season--though if you knew the misery of a Nova Scotian winter, you'd know why I'm never in a rush to get there.

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Jack P Toerson said...

Chamge is good.

8:49 AM  
Anonymous Jack P Toerson said...

Chamge is an avant-garde way of saying change.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Walking Spanish said...

how poetic -
here on the east coast fall signals the beginnings of bourbon exploration, outdoor fires and eventually massively high heat bills. but it still is the nicest time of year for sure.

11:28 AM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

great post...and a really wonderful way to look at things..thanks...

3:55 AM  
Blogger Chloe said...

i love autumn. for all the things you said. talk like a pirate day would be a massive success in my son's school.
happy new year :)

7:25 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I love autumn too for many of the reasons you said... and the birthday presents for me. :)

Hope Ruby is making out ok. :)

5:53 AM  

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