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The leaves of summer bared tree branches last fall. Now, a few months since then, crisp residue of those leaves and various other plants are scattered by chilly breezes. Lawns are patchwork patterns of green, yellow, and a mesh of ecru and wheat. A clear stream works it's way through a nearby gully, occasionally fed by rainstorms. It is winter in Carmel Mountain.

This morning, ice covered my car windows. A neighbor removed his ice with a scraper, but I was lazy. I started my car and ran my heater full blast until the ice melted. I didn't mind the pause of a few minutes at the beginning of what would be a busy day. I reflected on the weather, thinking how odd it was that it could be so cold this morning when a few days ago it was quite warm, and forecasts predict it will become balmy again toward the weekend.

During walks in my neighborhood, Iona (my Westie) and I find little treasures - different, of course, for each of us. She sniffs vermin tracks and the delicious scents of other dogs; but, her favorite finds are encounters with people - made all the more fun if they're walking one or more dogs. Iona invariably sees shadowy figures in the distance, bows down to them with her head between her front paws until they get closer. Then she stands up with a big smile and expects to be adored. She likes other dogs, but people are best in her opinion.

My treasures include watching Iona bound through long grass, feeling the stretch of my legs with each stride, enjoying the fresh air and the sting of icy wind that strikes my face. Occasionally, I see a lizard skittle away under the edge of some grass to escape my approach and I become aware that four or five others have joined the exodus. They've quickly abandoned the pale warm spot of sun on the sidewalk. I walk by the building where I work and feel thankful that I have work.

Last weekend, as Iona and I were finishing our walk, I glanced toward the dirt path that led down to the stream and a shock of white caught my eye. A delightful group of paperwhites had bloomed its way through the dry brown brush. I thought about taking them home, but decided they should remain and brighten the spot they'd found.

It's winter in Carmel Mountain.

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