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.

Memorizing the snapshots of a very special week

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“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?” ― Pat Conroy

I don’t know what I was thinking. I honestly thought I’d be able to move through the month of January with ordinary rhythms. I don’t know myself as well as I purport.

My son is getting married this week. He and his bride-to-be have ambitiously coordinated events to bring their parents and siblings together in joint activities that have surprised me from the very first mention. He was born with an independent nature and I somehow missed many of the clues that would have prepared me for his desire to closely meld two families.

This hasn’t been hard for me.  We have known the other half of our now larger family, although there were large gaps of time when we didn’t, for more than two decades. I have a photo of the bride and groom that dates back to high school prom night twenty years ago. Sometimes it takes awhile for stars to align.

So back to my belief that I could be fully present for this special time and also share it. I can’t. Or maybe it’s really that I don’t want to. Every now and then I think about the joy of this union and I realize it’s impossible to capture it in photos. And parents take these things in with a special lens that doesn’t translate anyway.

So I don’t know what you’ll see or hear from me this week. I have every intention of sharing details later. But for now, my only awareness is to open up to the experience and be as conscious as possible through each small moment. We don’t get them back.

The big day is Thursday. The only detail I’ll share for now is that there will be sand under our feet. I don’t think he had his mother in mind when he chose a beach wedding, but he is my son after all…he loves the ocean as much as I do.

For this one week, life will not be rushed. No “break neck circuit” for me.

Breathing lighter…Debra

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!