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A common fallacy expounded by midwesterners who move to California. When confronted by the seemingly mild climate and the bountiful produce, they are transported to use all sorts of hyperbole in describing their newfound paradise.

In California the seasons are subtle, and quick to change. And there actually are agricultural seasons, and we get imported produce, like everyone else, from Mexico and Chile, when the growing season is not right for romaine, basil, tomatoes or radicchio.

I've heard this a lot from Back Easters who later returned Back East, or wanted to. It's one of the things many people seem to hate about California. There are seasons here, though, and not just fire and flood. Different flowers and trees bloom at different times. The wind off the Bay changes, as does the quality of the sunlight. It's soft and subtle, but no less beautiful.

P. S. If you HAVE to have the damn snow, hop in a car and drive to the mountains! No problem.

In my view, the most inhabited parts of California really have two seasons, 'wet' and 'dry' But spring and fall are transitions with their own nifty stuff. Since coastal California is a mediterranean climate, it gets almost all of its rain in winter, mostly november - april. but the difference between the seasons are huge if you get out of the city.. much more than 'wet' or 'dry'. One of the most awesome times in California is when the first real rain of the fall comes. Everything is dead and dry but the rain falls crackling on the grass and suddenly everything seems new again, i swear you can feel the live oaks sucking up the water. Fall storms are mostly wind and mottled clouds, not much rainy substance to them. But soon the rains set in for good (unless its a drought year) and everything greens up. The few deciduous trees are bare but the hills are green like Scotland and the creeks fill again. In a good rainy season, everything is solid green or blue and every little valley has a little creek in it. the end of the rainy season is charactarized by quick little bouts of rain and occasional thunderstorms with lots of sun in between. this causes massive amounts of flowers like poppy and lupine to bloom and the grasses to grow extremely fast. Later on in the summer stuff slowly dries up and gets crispy again, and occasionally a grass fire will make the air fragrantly smoky. In most places winter is a time of waiting, waiting for sun and warmth for life to go on. In California, summer is mostly a time of waiting for the rain. The pattern is a bit different a ways east, if you want to see a good thunderstorm, head out to Bishop or Inyo county or the White Mountains in August...

California seasons exist and are quite distinct. There is the summer season, and the winter season. They aren't what most people think of summer or winter, they just happen to occur at the same time. Spring and fall are just the blending of one into the other.

(Livermore)
There is the season of the golden hillsides. There is the season of green grass.

(San Francisco)
There is the season of sun, there is the season of fog. And between these two is the time when glorious sunsets over the mountains with clouds rolling in from the ocean over the hills like a slow motion waterfall.

(Santa Cruz)
There is the season of dry creeks, and the season of babbling brooks when waterfalls once again fall over ancient rocks.

(Napa)
There is the season of harvest of grapes after months of slow growth. There is the season of aging, as these grapes are placed in great oak barrels and left until maturity.

(Tahoe)
There is the season of snow in the mountains and skiing down the slopes, watching the crackling fire with some fondue and fruit wine. There is the season of slot machines, blackjack tables, roulette, and watered down drinks.

Allow me to qualify what I'm about to say with three facts that underscore my subjectivity on the matter:

  • I've never been traveled outside of North America, but have thoroughly explored most of the United States in terms of geography.
  • I grew up in Holland, MI and have only recently re-located to Ukiah, CA. Ukiah is a small mountain town 100 miles North of San Francisco, 20 miles from Fort Bragg and the Pacific coast.
  • California is an extremely large state--third largest in the United States--that all told covers 155,973 square miles. The Golden State is home to deserts, mountains, palm-tree lined paradises, swamps, vast forests and endless plains of clay and fieldstone. 33 million people watch the sunset here daily. Entire weather systems were born and will die here. What I'm about to tell you is about Northern California. I speak only for wine country and more specifically for the mountainous wine country of Napa and Mendocino counties.


California doles out its seasons by the hour.

Naturally, everything begins with Spring. The coolness of the previous evening holds out until around ten am, when the sun burns its way up over the mountains of Mendocino County. The light always wakes me up by then, through the Redwoods I'm fortunate enough to have as my front yard keeping things cool and muted. My patio is in full sun by mid-morning which keeps my lemon, lime and grapefruit trees quite cheerful. The morning dew from the rather drastic temperature change serves as a daily Spring rain.

Summer starts somewhere between noon and one pm, I'd be more specific but I'm usually getting stoned in one of the dozens of hot tubs Ouroboros mentions in this node's twin "Californians have no soul". Why he didn't bother hard-linking in his writeup above is beyond me but hey - "I'm just a stoner."

Summer doesn't care ... the sun burns through the dry air without humidity or malice. Temperatures approach one hundred degrees on the hottest days and spin down to the low seventies on cool ones. It's an easily avoided heat, a brief time-out under the ever present Pines and Oaks is always good for cooling off. It's a heat that back in the Midwest you'll find accompanied by a sticky 95% humidity. Fuck that.

Late afternoon is all about Autumn. "Shadows are falling on the mountain". Once again, the sun took things too far. Spent. The shade creeps steadily through downtown and that pleasant sort of coolness takes over--the one that makes putting pants on the favorite part of your day. Sweater weather. Coffee weather. Living here has reminded me of the intrinsic value of the tiny marshmallows that go in hot chocolate.

Midnight flows through the house reminding everyone to shut the windows before bed. Winter is upon. It's no Midwest winter--no need to chain the tires or start carrying around bags of sand and 2x8's. It's a California winter--everything is perfectly still. There's not so much as a breeze at night. On the cooler nights you can see your breath beneath the streetlights. In Ukiah the local deer population decided its had enough of winter wheat and decides to sample some front-yard fare. Dozens of deer stroll through the streets after dark and quietly nibble at bushes and gardens. Big Sky takes over and there's nothing to do but hibernate until the Spring thaw of nine am.


Every day that passes I see a year go by. Time stands still and pregnant.

"Summer's almost gone, but winter's tuning up..."

-Leonard Cohen-

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