Monday, November 7, 2011

Everything changes

Photo: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times
Not a lot going on this week that’s blog-worthy. Well, not a lot going on that I can blog about. I’m neck-deep in various technical tasks—putting out your own book is not a job for the faint of heart or weak of stomach—but most of it’s stuff I can’t put on the blog, at least for now. Johanna’s Halloween costume was a big hit, and we’re now trying to schedule a photo shoot for the cover. Nicole’s scribbling away, trying to get the illustrations for the next 16 chapters done in a couple of days.

The big news, however, was the rain.

Okay, readers outside the Southwest, mock away. Rain, even the two small storms we had over the weekend, is an event in southern California. Rain edges out all other headline news, not least because everyone spontaneously forgets how to drive on wet asphalt and the result is a citywide game of high-speed bumper cars. But what interests me about it is the way it changes the world, especially when it arrives in autumn.

November in California is brown. The hills are the tawny color of mountain-lion fur—which is, of course, why mountain lions are that color. The grass goes tan from the long, hot summer. As the cold arrives, deciduous trees lose their leaves in a reddish-brown carpet. Even the sky turns brownish from accumulated smog, and the sunsets are bronze. Hot Santa Ana winds bake the landscape, leaving us all wondering why on earth department stores are trying to sell us winter coats when it’s 90 degrees outside.

And then the rain arrives, with only a little warning that we all ignore anyway. The sky turns the color of pewter, and the mountains are deep blue. Green comes back, too—the dust of summer washes off pine needles, and bright green weeds sprout in unattended lots. A lot of life around here just waits for rain, and shows itself only in the wet. The world turns blue and green and dark steel gray. The smells change—from dust and auto exhaust to rainwater and leafy, growing things.

It’s not all pleasant. The dry flood-control channels where we ride skateboards become raging torrents; swift-water rescue teams from all over the world come here to train, because here the job is hardest. There are always roofs that fall in, streets that flood, ancient trees that topple. There’s thunder and lightning and the clash of steel out on the roads.

I own exactly one raincoat—an elegant knee-length black number that always makes me feel like an extra in an episode of Highlander. I slip it on, loop my green scarf around my neck (the collar of the coat is far more open than any raincoat collar should be) and go walking in the rain, marveling at how a little water can change everything.

It’s National Novel Writing Month. If you’re noveling this year, consider how little things can change the world. A little weather goes a long way.

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