All Four Seasons

Wendy Hornsby

While I admire Henry David Thoreau’s commitment to become one with nature by camping out alongside Walden Pond for a couple of years, I have chosen to experience the changing seasons from a more comfortable vantage point than he in his little hut.

 Until last fall, I had lived nearly all of my life under the temperate weather bubble of coastal Southern California, the last part of it with a white sand beach just beyond my back fence. Though there are seasonal changes in that narrow zone, they are subtle. Days lengthen or grow shorter, the quality of the light changes, birds from other longitudes fly overhead going north or south, the crowds on the beaches come and then go away again, following the rhythms of the school calendar and work schedules more than changes in the weather. The weather stays fairly constant all year.

I have certainly experienced firsthand the worst that seasonal weather can deliver, but always as a tourist. This year, for the first time, I experienced all four seasons, not as a tourist, but as a full-time resident in a place where there is actual weather.

 Just about a year ago I retired from teaching, we sold our house, said goodbye to the beach, friends and the freeways, and moved 500 miles north and east into the foothills of the majestic Sierra Nevada.

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It was fall when we arrived, the landscape ablaze with color. Wild deer and turkeys grazed on the crop of acorns fallen from the native oaks in our new yard. We camped in, as Paul said, for a couple of weeks in a nearly empty house while painters and handymen did some work. Finally, on a cold, rainy day, the moving van showed up. I made a pot of stew and we began unloading boxes.  As the mountain of empty boxes grew, the bare space we moved into became our home.  

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We took breaks to explore the area, driving the black highways and the blue, making wonderful discoveries during every outing. This is Gold Rush country, a veritable amusement park for a historian, i.e. me.  And, of course, there are the beautiful Sierra to explore.

 We’re in a drought, and it looked as if the rain and snow season might never happen. But in December the temperature dropped below freezing and we had our first snow.  It wasn’t very much, and it only stayed on the ground for about a week, but it was still magic while it lasted.

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This winter was unusually warm, and spring came early. First there was a hint of green in the grass, and then almost overnight there were fields of flowers everywhere we looked. Roadsides carpeted with orange California poppies, blue lupine, and yellow daffodils. Our flower beds were barren when we moved in, and suddenly they were full of color; every week something new emerged. We planted a vegetable garden.

When The Color of Light came out in April, we made our first visit back to Southern California for the book launch. It was wonderful to see old friends, but the traffic was grim, the landscape looked dingy and brown—there is a terrible drought—and we were happy to get home again, to our new home.

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At the moment, we are clinging to the end of a beautiful summer. We’ve had several little summer rains—too little—and some very hot days, and we have tanned browner than we should have. But what fun we’re having. Morning laps in the community pool. home to write, evening boat outings on the lake with new friends, visits from old friends.  And more vegetables from our garden than the two of us can eat.

The light has changed, and our second fall is coming.  I’m looking forward to the surprises to come.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the blog and the photos. I’ve never lived without four seasons. I grew up in New York, went to school in Western Massachusetts, but that was just prologue. I’ve now have lived half my life in mid-Michigan and owning my own home, part of the joy of living here is watching the trees change, the flowers come and go, the light change–all of it. I feel much more in touch with the passing seasons and the passing of time and I’m, convinced it’s helped me as a writer. It’s centered me in a place and in myself.

  2. What a lovely new life you and Paul have made! And you write about it in a wonderful way. Keep those books and blog posts coming! Congratulations on your new life.

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