Groundhog Day

I don't see no shadowPunxsutawney Phil may have seen his shadow in Pennsylvania yesterday, but’s own C.Bear says: “I didn’t see nothin’ …”

Perhaps that’s because our photogenic little mascot was posing for the camera, as usual. Here, captured indelibly for the world to see, is the proof that C.Bear missed: behind him, his shadow.

Be that as it may, our household will have to grant that overstuffed hibernating Punxsutawney animal one thing: it’s going to be a long winter.

Here in Northern California, we survived the record once-a-decade torrential rains of January 4, though a bridge and the entire Marin County did get shut down for a while. Since then, it’s been wave after wave of wet storms cascading in from the Pacific, the reservoirs are starting to refill, and a sunny day in California has become a remarkable thing of wonder.

The commuter lanes are clogged daily with hundreds of thousands of clean, shiny cars – washed and rinsed in the purest rainwater. Car wash business is WAY down. The landscape gardeners still show up to shatter the still of the wet mornings with their Toro and Ryobi leaf blowers, as if they could actually disperse the sodden piles of leaves that are pasted to the pavements and walkways of urban America.

When the rains come, shoppers wait it out, staying off the roads. If you need to go to the store, this is the best time to avoid the crowds. Then, the asphalt begins to dry, and humans boil out of their homes and apartments like ants in a flooded garden. It is all part of the natural cycle of things.

Maniacs queue up in long lines in the Sierras, behind the snowplows and California Highway Patrol 4×4’s, to catch the skiing at the best resorts. It is cheaper than shoveling snow in New England and paying those huge heating oil bills. But, for the most part, by the lights of Midwesterners and veterans of the Northeast, we Californians are spoiled sissies. We don’t know how to drive in the snow. You can look at any rainy freeway and see that half of us don’t even know how to drive in the rain: we like to tailgate the swirling mists and spray of the big-rig semi trailers, where the visibility is almost zero.

Such are the  pitfalls of living in a temperate climate. My family came from New England to California in 1950 to avoid shoveling snow. In the next five decades, California’s population exploded exponentially as others claimed a slice of the easy life. Now, a small house in a bad part of town costs ten times as much as an acre with a sprawling modern home in Missouri – in fact California housing isn’t affordable at all.

 It appears it really is possible to have too much of a good thing. In the latest population trend, folks are fleeing California to inflate housing costs in places like Las Vegas and Phoenix. Oregonians were sick of us decades ago. Will the last Californian please turn out the lights?

So, while it’s true everybody tends to blame the weather, there are times when the weather explains almost everything, and, they say, in coming decades, global warming may explain wars.

While the world keeps a wary eye on the future, here at we just keep a wary eye on the monthly electric bill, and C.Bear prepares for another six weeks of winter.

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