The Nature of Things: Blue Skies

By Kimberly Mayer

Journal contributor

One month ago I began to plunge. The sun was at such a low arc in the San Juan Islands and as the days grew darker the darkness got me. It was at that time I made the acquaintance of a man who, having lived many years in Alaska, found winter on the island to be darker. He explained that because Alaska is without all the cloud cover, moonlight is reflected in the snow and winters seem brighter. Night after night I was watching HGTV “Bahamas Life” in bed. No wonder.

Trading rain shadow for Ray Bans and missing our grandchildren, we packed up the car and headed to sunny Southern California. Tree branches waved like arms in the wind as we steamed off on the ferry. Goodbye beautiful snowy mountains and islands, there is no place like you anywhere in the world, I know. But sometimes there is just not enough light.

Wet and cold, dark and muddy, it was all much the same through Washington and Oregon. Then something happens the moment one goes over the line into California, and it happens every time. Rolling down the Siskiyou Mountains and coming into all that light and dryness—the landscape looks like the location of Westerns in my childhood. Signs like Sunny Valley, Rogue River, Little Muddy Creek, Elk Creek, and Wolf Creek seem to bear witness.

It turns out that “the real West,” as I call it, was always unreal.

Everything is indeed looking better in the light and I can’t help but be happy. A four-year-old in San Diego charted our road trip on his placemat map at breakfast every morning and we made it. But here’s what I forgot: “The darkness is not an end point, nor is the daylight. They live in a continually unfolding, mutually dependent cycle,” explains Rick Rubin in “The Creative Act: A Way of Being.” The process is as old as time, and every six months it starts all over again.

I never saw us as snowbirds. I had lost the continuity of seasons. Winter Solstice was but days away, and instead of waiting it out, we jumped the gun. The skies here may not be Bahama blue but they’re powder blue. Light is coming for us all, and with it, color. Hang in.