Kage Baker loved classical California June weather: “June Gloom”, as the non-appreciative call it, or “May Grey”, in years when it doesn’t cooperate with weather tropes.
Historically, May and June are overcast. The sea and the air get amourous and confused, and the interface between them becomes entwined: for 50 miles inland, it’s not so much the lowest layer of the air as the highest layer of the ocean. Everything smells of salt and sage, and the sun only appears in time to set – vague and pale, long drifting stripes of lavender and orchid and silver painting the West. Most people complain about it. But Kage adored it.
California, you see, is essentially just one long coast – 800 miles of it, with an average width inland of only about 250 miles. Fog, clouds, muscular mist and wind-whipped sea foam can therefore spread in from the omnipresent Pacific and envelope entire cities. And it’s most likely to happen in May and June, when the damp spring sharpens into arid summer.
The last few years, though, we have been having weather out of Monty Python & The Holy Grail*. Or maybe A Midsummer Night’s Dream**. No rain in winter, no rain in spring, heat waves beginning in April and extending to September, when we segue into a re-enactment of the surface of the Sun. The cool mornings and the soft evenings of May and June have been bright and dry and glaring; and over the last two panting years even the people who most scorned the annual foggy season have begun to mourn the lack of that sweet marine layer.
But this year, it has come back! We had some insane heat waves in March and April, times of year when we usually are in greater danger of frost; but they relented and went away! And over the last 5 weeks, the weather has been …. normal. Which is now so peculiar that people are anxiously wondering what it means, and what ghastly weather anomaly is coming next.
(And, actually, a humdinger of an El Nino season is forecast for Autumn and Winter. There’s an enormous sink of warm water up in the Arctic Ocean, aptly named The Blob by the NOAA, and apparently we now have an 85% chance of an aerial river debouching over Los Angeles this winter. We’ll drown, but we won’t be thirsty!)
So, those with short memories or new to LA are worried about the foggy foggy dew. The natives are mostly delighted – we’ve even had rain, here and there, producing effects ranging from floods to merely damp lawns (most of which are already dead anyway). This is the way it was when we were kids, and the return to what I knew as a child is always a delight these days.
The summer is supposed to start like this – dim cool mornings, early plums, bare feet leaving marks in the sparkling grass. The cat comes indoors doing indignant dressage, lifting high-trotting wet paws with disdain and disapproval; the Corgi is wet to his shoulders after a morning run in the garden. Through mid-afternoon you can see the mist moving in the street like a phantom army, lower than the roofs and bringing all the perfumes of the sea and the golden hills … when Kage and I were girls, we’d fill our pockets with plums, apricots and Corn-Nuts, and go wandering through the Hollywood Hills to eat our breakfasts in the ruins of old stars’ mansions …
When we were grown women, living in Pismo Beach, this weather was like being in a soap bubble. Kage would sit at her desk, staring off through the refractive walls of cell on drifting cell of fog: everything between our window and the sea was rimmed in a nimbus of rainbows. And she’d exude content like a cat on a warm hearth; and then she’d sigh, and turn away, and begin to write her way through the thinning veil into some new world.
Gloom? Grey? No way, Dear Readers. The walls between the worlds can be just that thin, the light of other lands coming soft through the sea-foam piling on the hills. It’s a magic veil that gives sight as it falls across the eyes, a lens that sharpens vision as it thickens in the air.
* … Winter changed into spring, spring changed into summer, summer changed back into winter, and winter gave spring and summer a miss and went straight on into autumn …
Oh yeah, me too, and no mistake.