Dreaming of a very white Christmas

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    It was the kind of day that dazzled. Driving across the Valley last Wednesday, I was reminded of what it used to look like on just about any old day, particularly in fall. Malibu Canyon was so gorgeous I didn’t even mind the construction delay. I sat happily gazing at the greening hillsides while road crews scraped up fallen rocks. I even turned off my audio book tape.

    At the crest of the hill, the sea shimmered in the sun, the air so clear Palos Verdes seemed only a mile away. I gave thanks for this glorious vista, the first significant rain of the season, energized by that Pacific phenomenon named for the Nativity we celebrate this week. El Nino, the Child, energizes the storms that drift onshore, making them wetter and wilder, washing and blow drying away the shmutz we’ve come to accept as normal. Air you can see. Until all of a sudden one glorious morning, you can’t see it, and instead you can see all the brilliant colors usually muted in a sepia haze.

    I chose Wednesday to do some errands in town because Fritz and Dallas said it would be the only clear day between storms. Like I believe them?

    On the way home, the signs warned of high winds through Gorman. I thought, No way, that was yesterday. Yes, way. From the top of the 5-mile grade my Saturn encountered severe buffeting and we dodged tumbleweeds the size of Humvees rolling across I-5.

    When I turned off at Lebec, it seemed curiously dark. I tried to pick up the mail but the Post Office door was locked. Not a good sign. All the houses on Lebec Road were dark, no Christmas decorations, just the soft flicker of candlelight from a few windows and a single solar porch light. The house was pitch black. I could see a bazillion stars. The Border collie sidled up to greet me with a little whine. She was spooked. I told her to brave up, everyone would be home soon, I guessed, after driving to Frazier Park to get dinner. I grabbed a flashlight from the car and carried my parcels inside. Wow! It was a toasty 45 degrees. I gathered all the candlesticks, got the jugs of stored water out and put one in each bathroom and on the kitchen sink. I put newspaper and fatwood sticks by the fireplace. Only trouble, the cover had blown off the woodpile and the logs were soaked. When the kids got home they brought store-bought dry firewood. Good thought. Still, the coats didn’t come off till much later.

    So I spent all day Thursday getting ready for the next storm to roll in. I finished baking the whiskey cakes, replaced the burnt candles, and refilled the water jugs. Brought in some firewood. When I took the trash to the dump at 4:30, huge clouds were blowing in and turning gold and peach in the setting sun. Tejon’s lake was slate below snowy slopes. The thermometer and the barometer were plunging.

    When I got home, my daughter said we might really have a white Christmas. Yeah, and it could also rain, courtesy of El Nino, and wash away what little snow we have left from the first storm. It’s been a few years since the timing was just right for a real white Christmas. Sometimes it snows the week before and then the sun comes out and melts it all too soon. Well, that does let everyone drive up the road for the big dinner, but snow, really thick, new snow, is just so Christmas.

    The tree is decorated, the cakes are baked, all the gifts are wrapped, at least the ones that have been delivered. If it snows hard, the UPS truck won’t be able to get in, but, so what. I’d take the white stuff and make apologies for gifts that didn’t make it. It’s just family. They’ll take a snow check.

    Everything is pretty much set for the worst, or best, at the risk of jinxing the whole thing. We do believe in jinxes. Still, I boot up the old Mac and sit down to write this column so I can e-mail it on deadline, just in case we lose power. The blinds are drawn to keep in the heat and to keep me from looking out the window. The rain started after dinner and the wind’s been pushing the patio chairs around.

    All of a sudden the wind chimes are still, the rain seems to have stopped. Everything’s so quiet. I can’t resist. I open the blinds. Floating ever so gently to ground, big fluffy flakes. I turn off my desk light, turn on the outside flood. I sit for a while on the floor, watching the naked birch receive its frosty cloak.

    At the risk of jinxing this thing, I better send this now. I could be in deep doo-doo if I don’t. Then I’ll lie down on the floor again and watch it snow. I’ll probably fall asleep that way, dreaming of a very merry, very white Christmas.