Friday, February 19, 2010
"If You Don't Like The Weather, Just Wait Ten Minutes"
Chicagoans are fond of observing that if you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes. A cool, rainy day in May could easily give way to a glorious sky with temps in the 70s. At least, that's the way it used to be before global warming. Now, there are weather patterns that stick around for days, if not weeks. Arctic blasts in the winter or unseasonably cool and rainy days in the spring that last year held summer hostage for longer than anyone could remember.
Well, Chicago's fickle weather doesn't hold a candle to winter weather in northern California. Two days ago, I basked in sunshine with not a cloud in the sky and the temperature hovering around 70 degrees. We took the ferry from San Francisco to Alcatraz where the island personnel reminded us that normally the weather out there was foggy, chilly, and often punctuated by rain. The island's infamous prisoners - among them Al Capone and Floyd Hamilton, the driver for Bonnie and Clyde - coveted the southern-facing cells hoping to warm up just a little whenever the sun did shine.
This is me sitting on the cement steps in Alcatraz's outside yard, listening to an audio recreation of one of the many failed escape attempts. You'll note that I've taken off my jacket and would have removed my sweater save for the fact that I wasn't wearing a t-shirt underneath.
But, wait . . . The next morning, we awoke to the thickest fog of the trip, a fog that isolated us from the rest of the world save part of the roof on the house below. Within a matter of hours, the skylit sky with its sliver of a new moon had been consumed by a vapor so dense that even the deck railing a few feet beyond our front windows had disappeared. In its own right, the fog was as magical as the glorious sun the day before. For the first time, I was hesitant to drive down the hill and into Berkeley, nervous that I'd miss one of the hair-pin turns or crash into the back of another car.
The fog didn't lift. The sun made several feeble efforts to break through the barrier but never succeeded. If this fog had landed at the beginning of our trip, we would have been truly bummed. "Where's the sun?" "It's too chilly." "I can't see where I'm going." But now more acclimated to Mother Nature and all her moods, we walked in the fog, took photos of what we could barely see, reveled in the changed environs, and barely missed the twinkling evening lights from down below.
This was truly the forest primeval with who knew what lurking around every corner, behind every tree and bush. The orange glow of the few lamplights that dotted the neighborhood seemed terribly out of place as if they'd been installed by some alien force. Walking up and down the hills in almost absolute silence was meditative, special. You were all alone in the universe, just you, the sound of your breathing, the pounding of your heart.