I love living in a place with four seasons — seasons that announce themselves each year in spectacular ways. In winter, I love the hours after a heavy snow when the sun comes out and the thaw begins: the soft “flump” of snow as it drops from the trees, the liquid bubbling of snow melt flowing through culverts and ditches, the crystalline shine of sun on snow and melting drops and the soft white that covers everything.
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Spring comes in a blast of neon green. With the previous night’s rain still lingering on every pine needle and new green shoot, the rising sun blasts the world into diamond prisms that make you catch your breath. Summer’s arrival comes that warm night when your watch tells you it’s nine o’clock, but it’s still light outside and you are barbecuing to the accompaniment of thousands of love-sick frogs. The aspens and Chinese pistache announce fall with yellow, orange and red leaves. The air is suddenly crisp and there is a quickening of pace. The dog days are ushered out on a wave of anticipation and frost.
It’s hard to miss those announcements — the ones that alert you to changing over your closet, pulling out the winter coats and sweaters to prepare for the cold or stuffing them in the back of the closet and pulling out the sundresses instead.
I suppose if I lived in a place where the seasonal change ranged from “Not as Hot” to “Pretty Warm,” I would still notice the advent of the seasons, but it would be more challenging. With only two seasons, my clues would have to come from minor changes around me. The need for a sweater in the early morning or late evening would announce “Not as Hot” while “Pretty Warm” might go unnoticed altogether or show itself in an uptick in the air conditioning.
I’d have to look at the calendar to know when it was time for football or basketball season. The calendar would also be my source for Christmas and Thanksgiving — no over the hills and through the snowy woods. Winter and fall would be lost to me. I’d have to peer at the Weather Channel to enviously watch the leaves change color a coastline away. While it’s true, I wouldn’t have to worry about putting on chains to get out of my driveway or scraping ice off my windshield, and my wardrobe would all fit in one closet, I would miss all the anticipation of change.
Since I live in El Dorado County, I know winter is over, really over, when it snows on the dogwoods. I know where to look for every season — marking dogwood. I know it’s spring when the flowering quince lights up the roadside like a beacon, sneezes fill the air and wildflowers replace the snow in the Sierra. I know it’s summer when El Dorado Hills changes from apple green to golden brown and it’s fall when Apple Hill kicks into gear and the smell of fallen apples drifts on a crisp breeze to my willing nose. Then, when the pellet stove is on and the first few flakes start to fall, it’s winter again, no matter what the calendar says.
We get the full monty — temperature ranges from 25 to 100, four full seasons and plenty of ways to enjoy them.
Wendy Schultz is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. Her column appears bi-weekly.