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California dreamin’? California hibernatin’!

This month should see spring a-comin’ any day now, yet I find myself thinking about this past temperate West Coast winter, and how I lived it out in a very snowed-in, East Coast way.

I’ve been hibernating. Laying low. Curling up and catching up on my reading.

In Take My Tired Boots, Yearning to be Tossed (Marina Times , December 2011), I rhapsodized about getting rid of years’ worth of well-worn, seen-it-all-on-the-icy-sidewalks of New York City snow boots, and how if I were ever to buy another pair (for example if forced to confront snow again on the gleaming slopes of Tahoe), they would be shiny, pink, and extremely girly boots, with not a thought in their soles of actually stepping into any real snow or ice.

Even as recently as this past January’s column, I proposed a citywide Day of Gloating, in which all of us could exult in our fine weather here, while our East Coast cousins froze their toes in puddles of yellow melting ice. Weather has been a favorite topic of mine since starting this column. And it has generally taken the form of how wonderful it is to be here and not there.

But now, as I look back over the past winter months, a part of me seems to have actually been there all along, through this rough and record-breaking New York City winter. It seems that I have been hibernating. Banking my fires, often with our gas stoves ablaze, and snuggled up in a heavy cotton blanket with my two aging pups.

Sure, I have gone out into the California winter to run errands, and have reveled in the clear blue canopy of sky that covers this town most of the time. I have taken hours to sit by the Pacific Ocean, writing in my journal, staring out into the vast water, adoring this new “stage left” life of mine. And I’ve marveled at how extremely bright the sunshine is in this part of the world. Surely, the sun never shone this brightly in New York City. At least, during my decades there, I don’t recall ever noticing such brilliant sunlight as the kind we have here, the kind that bounces off the air and dances in the eyes and limelights everything in tinfoil brightness.

But then, over these past few months, as soon as my errands were done — whether it be the gym, grocery shopping, lunch with a friend, or a writing workshop, museum visit, yoga, or whatever needs doing — I’ve come home to this cozy house. Then, after taking out the pups and prepping for dinner, I’ve covered up and spent hours reading and catching up on all the latest Hulu and Netflix series.

And I have rested.

Not very productive, this time under covers, as my book lies languishing, and my short story collection sits balefully staring at me from a corner of my desk. But this has been a necessary time, and I marvel at how my mind and body have identified with my Eastern brethren, as the thick snows of winter have made their lives more difficult. It’s as if some sort of internal mechanism still has a part of my psyche stationed at 103rd and West End Avenue, watching the snow cover the sidewalks and ice the tree limbs.

I have cozied down in sympathy. In solidarity. Not enough to hop on an airplane and sympathize in eight inches of actual snow! Oh no! I’m fine cozying down here, where I only imagine and remember what winter in New York City was like.

But every time I’ve heard about another big snowstorm there, my need to hunker down here has grown stronger, due perhaps to that internalized East Coast barometer, that reactive weather gyroscope leaning toward my old life. Even as I gloat, I seem to be identifying with what all my New York City friends are going through, and I have been hibernating in their honor. And enjoying it, rather than gird myself to withstand it as I used to.

Our bodies need their own time to rest and recover. And because we are all made of the same stardust, because we’re children of the seasons, no matter how many different ones we actually experience where we live, maybe we all need the cave time that winter provides.

I know I’ve needed it. And have been glad for the chance to take it.

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