Embracing May Gray and June Gloom…or maybe just accepting it

Los Angeles averages 329 days of sun per year. It’s actually quite warm and sunny most of the winter. Then sometime mid-May we shift into May Gray leading to June Gloom,  a weather phenomenon that appears this time of year in Southern California, as cyclical as spring and summer.

Most years after about two weeks of little or no sunshine I lapse into feeling like I need to hibernate. We are sunshine people and I don’t do well without consistent exposure. This is an embarrassingly hard thing to admit when I know how many of my blogging friends live for months with extremes of cold and damp, without even a spot of sun until mid-spring.

I’m not alone in my physical reaction, however.

With great interest I’ve read numerous studies linking sunshine to mood. Natural sunlight provides essential vitamin D and can protect a person from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Sunlight boosts key mood boosting hormones and wards off some forms of depression.

May and June are typically the cloudiest months of the year in coastal Southern California. The clouds are formed when the  marine layer moves in late at night and the resulting damp and gloomy pattern hangs around until late afternoon, when finally the setting sun makes a brief appearance below the clouds and there may be a couple of hours of “happy” sunshine.

A fun and informative blog post on this natural phenomenon can be read HERE, but basically all that’s required is cold Pacific Ocean water, an ocean current known as the California current and a high pressure formation.

There are some benefits to this moisture-laden foggy weather, however. In a mega-drought cycle it is a wonderful reminder that Mother Nature knows how to make an appearance and send a little relief. We aren’t using much outside water right now. Conservation isn’t nearly the challenge it will be in a couple of months.

May and June are somewhat unique, but in July and August the fog associated with the beach areas following hot summer days can also roll in and cool further inland.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles is in the Brentwood neighborhood.  On a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean, but it isn’t “at the beach” in the same sense as the Getty Malibu campus. These  photos were taken last August as friends and I visited on an afternoon and stayed into the evening.

Temperatures at my house, less than 25 miles away, had been in the 100s that day. As we strolled around the campus the fog rolled in and the temperature dropped enough that we were cold…and a little wet.

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Mother Nature knows how to cool us off and is doing her best to assist the parched environment.  So I’m doing my best to embrace the benefits of May Gray and may even be looking forward to June Gloom.

We have Hollywood Bowl tickets tomorrow night seeing Neil Diamond in concert for the first time–it’s our first time, not Neil’s. I won’t know until tomorrow if I need to plan for wet weather. No umbrellas are allowed inside the Bowl so this could be exciting.

It is a three-day weekend as we commemorate Memorial Day. Monday will be a quiet day at home, I’m anticipating, and maybe I can get caught up with some of you. I’ve not been spending much time blogging recently.

I have been very busy during the day, yes, but you see, May Gray HAS been making me want to hibernate, and my evenings have been very short! Maybe I need a sun lamp? (If you’ve just endured a long, freezing winter you have my permission to roll your eyes.)

Whatever Mother Nature delivers to your door step this weekend, I hope you have a very enjoyable one. I’ll look forward to hearing about it.

Have I told you about my Ninja moves?

I have been absent of late. November simply passed as one giant blur of activity with some added responsibilities that guaranteed blogging roadblocks.  Not that I didn’t try. I made a very important discovery, however. After 9:00 PM my mind turns to mush. You don’t need the details on that.

But to stay on top of an expanding schedule of activity I was forced to develop some flexible moves. My yoga practice has been invaluable in maintaining calm–well, calm for me anyway. But lately I’ve had to add Ninja moves as a form of independent study.

Even my closest friends and family have yet to actually see me practicing my Ninja moves. I’m sorry I don’t have photos. And if I could manage video, I’d be a YouTube sensation.

Autumn in Southern California offers a very subtle shift between summer and three more months of summer before we enter a mild winter. The colors do change, but not in the riotous fashion seen in other regions. It’s possible if you were visiting Los Angeles you wouldn’t even notice.

And the temperatures do significantly drop at night, but if you’re already experiencing snow, you probably aren’t interested in hearing how we ate our Thanksgiving dinner outdoors.

Gardens are confused.  Roses are still blooming, and in near perpetual sunshine, my mother’s zinnias are already sprouting in a false display of spring. Darwin is spending day after day without leaving his burrow. He isn’t eating. He knows it’s fall even if the temperatures still hover stuck in summer gear.

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Well, endless summer temperatures don’t dictate length of days, and in our latitude twilight is 5:00 PM–just about the time I get home from work. Let the Ninja moves begin!

Do you remember our poor anxiety-ridden dog, Zena?  Even with her twice-daily doses of more-expensive-than-I’m-happy-with prescriptions, we still can’t leave home without setting up a barricade to the back door. Here are photos taken before we figured that out!

We don’t know if she would continue to eat the door frame down to the metal flashing, but we barricade the door and set as many precautions in motion as we can. Each time we leave the house she’s given treats, toys, and provided shelter in our little backyard guest house. She’s treated like one of our children.

You know? As I hear myself, could it be possible that treating her like a child has created such a temperamental little creature?

Oh well. Too late for that. Back to my Ninja training.

So here’s how it works.

I get home a little before 5:00 PM and need to quickly change my clothes and head out to my 5:30 yoga class. I’m only home for a few minutes, but that’s long enough to get Zena all stirred up!  If Jay isn’t home I need to stealthily sneak in and do what I came to do without drawing any attention to myself.

Step 1: I park about one house up the street, avoiding our driveway and being sure I don’t slam the car door or lock it and sound the little alarm.

Step 2: It’s necessary to approach the house with the perfect trajectory. Although the roses are currently about five feet high and quite thorny, I creep through the rose bed skilled at avoiding injury to skin or clothing. Ambling in this odd pattern to my front door, I’m sure my neighbors aren’t aware that this is a well-honed Ninja move. Perhaps they are concerned for me.

Step 3: Finally at the front door, I very, very carefully open the door without making a sound, then crouch and crawl in my best Ninja–or home intruder moves, crawl through the house to my bedroom, careful to avoid being seen through any windows.

Step 4: The house is dark and I can’t possibly turn on a light without my four-footed friend discovering her playmate is home, so out comes the iPhone flashlight and I, with great skill, impressively manage to change my clothing and sneak right back out the front door, totally undetected.

I’ve only been discovered once. That time I found Zena peering into my bedroom window and it was she who scared me!

Step 5 of “How to Train to Be a Ninja Easily” says I need to practice walking quietly, rolling my feet and using my hips to allow wide steps, and to breathe evenly. I do eat healthy foods, as suggested, but my tree-climbing days are over. I can, however, be sneaky.

Is it any wonder that by the end of the day I’m struggling to string coherent sentences together?

Oh, and another Ninja practice strategy suggests that I use nature to my advantage. Apparently being in tune with nature helps provide camouflage during dangerous missions and helps mask noise.

That’s easy. I do spend a lot of time outdoors. And I’ve enjoyed a beautiful Southern California fall. I can’t share photos of my Ninja-moves, but I can share some photographs I’ve recently taken. See if you can find any evidence of Autumn.

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I have missed being more in touch, but December is looking hopeful. And for the last weekend in November, don’t forget your own Ninja moves–apparently breathing lighter is a key skill component. Be sure to exhale!

 

 

A strategy for breathing lighter to send you on to another week

One of the nicest comments that I receive is that something I’ve shared on this blog has changed, favorably so, an opinion of Los Angeles. Visitors have frequently maintained their previous notion of Southern California, perhaps particularly of the greater Los Angeles area, was strictly one flat note. I’ve enjoyed expanding the vision.

There is much that is really wonderful about this state. Then there are undeniable drawbacks.

Los Angeles County accounts for about 26% of California’s population estimate of 38 million people.

When it takes me 60 minutes to go 30 miles–and that’s not the worst example I could give–I will admit breathing lighter is not what comes to mind. I have my survival strategies, however. Sometimes I spend the entire “trek” thinking about pioneers who traveled across the Oregon Trail. Fantasy works.

Bottom line? I live in the center of a pressure cooker.

But rather than focus on the negative, I long ago made a choice to find the “people, places and things”  that excite my curiosity or quite literally lift me out of the congestion and provide a breathing lighter escape.

My latest adventure has been to fully immerse in the story of John Muir’s interest in Pasadena. I am enjoying Elizabeth Pomeroy’s  “John Muir: A Naturalist in Southern California,” and as so often happens, one story leads to the next.

My curiosity was first aroused at the Huntington Library when I noticed a letter from Muir to Theodore Parker Lukens.

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Lukens, a two term Pasadena mayor and prominent civic leader and well-respected conservationist, traveled to Yosemite in 1895 and joined Muir in the Hetch Hetchy Valley. This initial visit set the stage for Lukens’ lifelong commitment to protecting the timberland and forest reserves above Pasadena and beyond.

A mountain peak in Southern California and a lake in Yosemite National Park, for which he urged federal control, are named after Lukens. Muir often called upon his conservation-minded friends  to assist him in his tireless effort to protect the Yosemite Valley.

I’ve driven by the Lukens house hundreds of times. It happens to be on the same street as my favorite independent book store. But I had never previously connected Lukens to Muir, so now the house takes on a whole new interest!

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Notice the hitching post and mounting stone just sitting there waiting for a horse-bound visitor!

There’s every reason for me to believe that Muir spent time in his friend’s home. Muir, often called “Professor Muir,” was a frequent speaker in the area, including lecturing at the local high school.

The independent bookstore I mentioned? Vroman’s books is a Pasadena landmark.

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A.C. Vroman was also a friend and supporter of Muir’s aims to protect the San Gabriel mountain area and other state-wide conservation efforts.

This is all new information to me, and I’m completely enjoying putting the pieces of a very large puzzle together, while also being pulled back to the relative “quiet” of the early 20th century.

Horse traffic would have been more my speed, I think.

I sometimes simply enjoy imagining what Muir and other early settlers in the Los Angeles area must have experienced and how they interpreted the natural beauty. I wonder what they would think if they could drop in for a visit today?

I get lost in this imagining and it somehow modifies the incessant noise that is a part of every day.

And to breathe even lighter?

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The beautiful San Gabriel Mountains are close enough for me to touch them. And if I need to escape just a little bit more intentionally? Fifteen minutes can put me at Chantry Flat, about three miles into Big Santa Anita Canyon, and home to the last pack station in Southern California.

Just sitting here in the coolness and among the trees, and I contemplate what Muir said of the San Gabriels, “I had to contend with the richest, most self-possessed and uncompromising chaparral I have ever enjoyed since first my mountaineering began.”  

I tamed the chaparral by car. But I could still imagine.

Breathing lighter? It’s all about where you put your focus.

If stress starts to build this week, replace the stress by identifying an area of interest and begin your own adventure. And if that doesn’t work fast enough for you…just find a place to rest your eyes and escape.

Let me know if it works!