A friend in Seattle says that come midsummer, everyone in town goes a little crazy for several weeks. With good prospects for sun in an otherwise rain-drenched calendar, people head to the mountains, the islands, anywhere outdoors to drink in the prime but fleeting moment.
In the Northeast, it's the spectacular autumn leaves of October. In Washington, D.C., it's cherry blossom season in late March. And here, it's right now — midwinter, after the first big rains followed by enough sun to green up the hills and set off the early wildflowers. Usually this happens in late February, but this year everything was accelerated by early storms and, of course, the late December deluge. The red flowers of gooseberry were budding in early December in some spots, a full month ahead of time. By now, we're already past the first purple glimpses of lupine; there are crops of them.
People in other regions of the country think of Southern California as a year-round outdoors venue, free of snow, ice and wilting humidity. It's true that hiking here is always possible, but it's not necessarily attractive. Not when the landscape becomes waterless, the flowers wither, the scrub turns brown and the sun feels like it's about 10 feet away.