Early January: single digit temperatures in Boulder but emerging spring (this day at least) in Sonoma. The first bicycle ride of the year was a bust as the front chain ring of my road bicycle broke leaving me with only the highest gear to climb 15% grade hills. I struggled and strained to move upward, frustrated by the constant problems with the cables on this bike. One tune-up later, however, and the gears are working smoothly; that same grade, while not melting away as I pedaled, was feasible without grunting!
The huge, old tulip trees are starting to blossom, the waxy tulip-shaped flowers a warm pink against the grey branches and trunk. A few narcissus, yellow and white, baby cousin to daffodils, are poking up alongside the roads. The yellow mustards are blooming in the still-winter vineyards where vintners are trimming so carefully errant branches before the vines start to green. We are greeted most mornings with dripping fog, fingers crossed that the sun will emerge later to brighten the greening landscape and reward us with views of the surrounding soft hills.
It is only the middle of January, though, too soon for spring: rain is sorely needed in the valleys, heavy snow in the mountains, and the streams and rivers enough water to surge, so full we might worry about flooding.
This time of year teases us with warm breezes before startling us with cold and chill. Hot chocolate is in the cupboard for late afternoon post-walks, an invitation to curl up with a book and worry about the dead leaves to be carted away later. We are spoiled in this land of contradictions, the crashing ocean, the soft green valleys, and the narrow roads among the oak-lined hills.