When It Rains in LA

Southern California has a Mediterranean climate, meaning dry summers and rainy winters. Except it’s been awhile since we’ve received much rain in Los Angeles in the winter. Last year was incredibly mild, and it seemed I only had a week to wear my possibly excessive collection of boots, while repeatedly marveling at reports from colleagues in Minnesota.

I’d ask, “What do you DO in the winter!?” and receive varied responses, my favorite of which (from a woman very enthusiastic about LA) was, “Become a hermit.” Other responses included coaching ice hockey, quilting, brewing beer, snowmobiling (these contraptions can cost +$20K and include cupholders and seatwarmers!), board games, and a wistful “There are things to do…” that didn’t entirely convince me. I continue to be amazed at days with a high of one degree Fahrenheit! A low of -22 degrees! Personally, I can’t fathom why people don’t fly south on a one-way ticket, but I do respect these arctic dwellers.

Meanwhile, this year in LA we have had a few weeks of mostly gray, rainy days. This water is incredibly needed, and so I am grateful. Except selfishly, when the alarm clock pierces my consciousness on a gray, soggy morning, I’m not so motivated to get up for work. I may have some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder – I like to say that I’m solar-powered!

But for the past few days, I have stepped outside in the morning into a gently falling, misting rain that necessitates only sporadic strokes from my windshield wipers. The cars – oh, the metropolis of LA – swoosh by more melodically. The LA River, our flood channel, is swollen and actually rushing, far from its usual concrete-encased trickle. I’ve noticed hills in the distance, plants alongside freeway entrances, foliage along mountain trails, and lawns that appear startlingly, emerald green. Tree trunks, darkened with raindrops, appear somehow sexy with the deeper contrast of colors. The SMELL of the air is delightfully crisp and alive, invigorating me as it infiltrates my lungs.

And then – over the past few days – the rain has cleared earlier than forecasted. I have been able to walk over my lunch hour without an umbrella or raincoat. I have driven home on relatively dry streets, without the exacerbated evening traffic that rain can bring. I have carried on the routines of my city life unabated, while most of the rain has fallen overnight, providing a soothing lullaby while I am cozily secure in bed. It’s as though nature has been on my side.

This got me thinking as to the inevitable ebb and flow of both nature and its seasons. In a previous year, I remember driving to work during a severely heavy rain and passing through a somewhat flooded section of the 134 freeway near Eagle Rock. I was driving a Honda Civic that I had for 14 years, and the cars in neighboring lanes and ahead of me splashed up a giant sheet of water that completely engulfed my windshield and obstructed visibility. I stayed slow and steady and made it to work safely, albeit anxiously.

In appreciating the divine timing of this week’s rainfall compared to more harrowing experiences in previous years, I thought about perspective and connection. I would rather have the overnight rainfall experienced this week, the refreshed morning air, and the uninterrupted convenience of my urban life. But nature brings it all, and reminds us that change is the only constant. We are tested, our instincts sharpened and honed, and we hopefully emerge a little stronger from each challenge encountered. And perhaps what’s gained from the trials is compassion and empathy with others who have undergone something similar. A common battle scar, from which resilience forms a shared bond.

These musings arose from one of the mildest winters and most enviable climates in the US. What war stories could Minnesotans share? But I’ll take my native SoCal climate. I don’t want to spend time shoveling snow, defrosting my car, considering that pipes can actually freeze, or putting on 14 layers of clothing (socks alone are an imposition – sandals are my footwear of choice for as close to year-round as possible!) I may be a wimp by some standards, but I believe I just have excellent taste.

Trails at Griffith Park


Closeup of the vividly green hill pictured previously from above.
A flooded bioswale at LA State Historic Park, where hydroseed grass takes root and volunteers plant hundreds of native plants before the park’s grand reopening to the public slated for April 2017.
Sexy bark.
California natives: Artemisia Californica (CA coastal sagebrush) and the Hollywood sign.
LA’s skyline, washed cleaner following a winter rainstorm.

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