The rains have returned, this time seemingly for good. The weather app shows rain for the next 10 days. The visible future from the perspective of a phone. This is the un-talked about season in Sonoma. Before moving here I never heard anybody say that it rains for weeks on end. I had thought that it only politely rained while everybody was sleeping, like a well-maintained sprinkler system on Disney property. In my mind Sonoma was like one of those postcards of Florida sunshine, but set in California, with little clusters of oranges the size and color of grapes, growing on vines, with no alligators there to protect them. A whole state built upon endless sunshine, fermentation and perpetual celebration.
I wrote earlier about two rows of sakura trees as they were making their lovely late fall transition to cherry blossom. Now, their colors have shifted to a dark magenta of the departed season, almost the color of a red wine. Each day I drive by, wanting to stop and take a picture. They line both sides of a one-lane drive that leads north off of the main road towards the center of the flat valley, then following a curve behind a small group of trees that obscure the road's ending, they disappear in unison. The view is tempting, the path inviting. But each day I am rushing in and out of the valley, possessed by time, making instant daily decisions to just keep driving, to just get there, to not suddenly slam on my brakes and veer to the side, wrestling the car into submission, one hand reaching for the camera.
I am held to the road by the grip of the rhythm of rock and roll, or bluegrass and country, or electronic dance music, or sometimes even talk radio - with me banging the dashboard and blasting my horn in agreement or rebuttal, screaming occasional spittle into the passing rains. The road's curves I have memorized in both the light and the dark. But for an animal occasionally making its crazed dash from one side to the other there is little danger in taking the curves as fast as they can be taken, even in rain. Once I've passed the cops that hide nightly off the road that leads away from the highway I set my cruise control for a spot on the border between what is legal, what is speeding, and just below what is pull-over worthy... perhaps foolishly believing myself to have it all figured out, and them along with it.
None of this is to say that the valley has died the death of a normal winter, awaiting its spring in sparse grayness, or mourning. The picture above was taken just two days ago, the picture below only a few feet away on the same day, just outside our door. The valley is a mystery, the winter only seems to pass through some of the flora here, other plants seem to celebrate the winter as if it were a perpetual spring. Everywhere there is the gentle explosion of colorful change, of life. The hills turned a bright green and will return to a golden brown for the summer, surprisingly their richest in mid-winter. Everywhere there are the colors of autumn mixed generously with the new blossoms from the wellspring. Where else might there be a place that is so full of side-by-side contradictions - except, of course, the human heart.