5 a.m., April 16
- Community Blog
A San Diego Christmas
With marmalade swirled salmon colored leaves clinging to grey branches against the cobalt sky and grass rendered florescent by winter rains come early, there isn’t another place in the continental US I’d rather be at Christmas time.
In a t-shirt and sandals and with my giant red reusable Naughty-or-Nice bag flung over my shoulder, I shopped during the off hours at seaside boutiques hedged by blooming bushes looking for not much of anything in particular because I had done most of my shopping online.
I didn’t miss vying for parking spots with nasty holiday shoppers who hunkered behind the wheels of SUVs and oversized diesel trucks bedecked with reindeer antlers stuck to the side windows and jingling wreaths strapped to the front bumpers. Nor did I miss the wind chill factor of subzero climates or the trudging through the slush mess in stiff layers of thermal wear AT ALL.
I’ve done my years in the Arctic barricaded behind insulated walls buried beneath piles of snow. Well, alright, I’m fibbing. I’ve not been to the Arctic and although I’d love to see Polar Bears in the wild, I have not the least bit of interest in placing my born to be bare feet on the encircled ice cap.
Vermont is cold, damp and grey, and the winters last most of the year. Deep into my 16th winter I counted 15 days of overcast skies and temperatures below zero. That’s when the planning began. While Nordic skiing through a snow tipped pine forest beneath a full moon, I began dreaming and once those dreams emerged from my subconscious, they never ceased. Until the spring thaw came, I hiked the muffled mountain in layers of wool and down while all the while envisioning a kaleidoscope of color, linen light as air, and breezes, balmy and fragrant. I envisioned clear skies, blue as far as the eye could see, and a lazy rolling sea.
First go, I made it as far as Maryland, which for the record was the first place I have lived since I was two where I could be on the beach in my bikini on my birthday (which happens to fall somewhere in the 11th month). Where there were actually four distinct seasons. Autumn is generally lovely and long along the Chesapeake. Folks described the winters as mild, comparatively speaking. I figured they’d be nothing to Up North. What I didn’t know when I moved there, however, was that the windshield coming off the frozen Bay come February can frost the marrow in your bones.
Nope. Pretty as a white Christmas is, I know exactly why it is I’m here, hiking on Christmas day in shorts amidst the scents of wild fennel, thyme, rosemary and sage through avenues of eucalyptus, the gently falling foliage reflecting in the still pond. After all, high in the bows of the now bare oak groves swayed massive balls of mistletoe and holly bushes, like poinsettias, grow in the hedgerows. Why kill a tree to bring the best of the season inside when here, in southern California, it lives in the native landscape? Granted, the holiday fauna grows alongside hibiscus and fan palms but you won’t hear me complaining.
I may still don a long red scarf and pop into an authentic Old World Pub for a stiff Irish coffee while working down my gift list, but it’s no longer to take the “edge” off chilled bones. That which once was a chore has become downright festive. My grandmother, she’d be glad to know, was right; there IS hope for me after all.