It seems I blinked and 2016 is already four days old on this last day of our Christmas break. Tomorrow the teachers and students in our district will be back in their classrooms muddling through yet another semester as the storms of the Godzilla El Nino roll eastward across the Pacific. From where I sit I can look to the north and see the bands of clouds encircling the mountain tops and obscuring my view. There are still patches of blue sky to be seen and the two cats are in their roosts occasionally showing excitement with their tails as yet another winged friend visits our backyard. Our visitors this day include mockingbirds, blackbirds, sparrows, black-winged finches, and scrub jays and I wonder if they are instinctively preparing for the four storms currently on their way to us.
There is an occasional splash of sunlight that illuminates our backyard and the crows that pass solitary and in groups of three on a path that varies for west to east and then back again. Five of the thirteen Italian Cypress trees that lined our back fence are now stumps of varied sizes while the remaining eight trees are skeletons of their former selves but I will not be able to complete their removal until the storms have passed. Where these aged eyesores now stand will be apple, plum, citrus, and avocado come the spring planting season. There will also be a vegetable garden on the western half of the backyard and I will once again work alongside the pollinating bees and wasps.
The sun is now illuminating our backyard with a promising aura that belies the reality of the approaching storms, which our weather reporters say will bring floods and mud to Southern California. We were not living in our fixer-upper house this past winter although we were here frequently working on it. Last winter was mild, to say the least, but this one has already given us heavy rains, several days of freezing frost, and it is likely that we will see some snow this year. We are not yet fully prepared for a hard winter as I have not yet been able to install rain gutters and finish the property drainage but we continue to move further along.
I move from a sense of peace to a sense of worry from day to day wondering what this winter has in store for us. We had the fireplace inspected and we were pleased to learn that it was in perfect working order. My wife and I brought home the very last one-eighth of a cord of oak firewood in her SUV from the local firewood dealer. I also added some cherry from an old non-producing tree that I cut down in the backyard and so we are set for a while. We have been using our fireplace in the evening and it reminds me of when we still lived on the mountain way back in the 1990’s. There is a sense of nostalgia that arises from the scent of burning oak along with a sense of homesickness for what now graces my northern view.
One never knows what tomorrow’s storms may bring and I know 2016 will have more than its fair share be they rolling in from across the Pacific or from across the political landscape both here and abroad. Like the patches of blue that have now completely disappeared from my northern view, yet still remain scattered here and there in the south, this year will have its moments of darkness and of sunshine and, like the years before, we will weather them one and all.
Have a happy and prosperous New Year!