When I first moved to California umpteen years ago, I yearned for the autumn colors of my home region. In upstate New York, as through the entire Northeast, the forests glow ablaze with brilliant golds, oranges and reds as the maples do their annual march toward dormancy. For a while, California's change of seasons was too subtle to me. There was no winter, spring, summer and fall as I was used to. Rather, there was green or gold; wet or dry; warmish or coolish.
Ultimately, I came to love the gentle transitions of my adopted home. I love watching the hills blush bright green with the first rains, and then fade to gold when they dry up again. I love the heady perfume from all the trees that bloom in February, and the spicy aroma of dry grasses and chaparral in the fall.
As our affinity with the wine country grew, and our visits became more frequent, I saw another side of the seasons. Springtime brings brilliant yellow mustard blossoms among the gnarled black vine heads. Summertime, the vines carpet the hillsides with lush green leaves. And in the fall, when the grapes are gone and the first chills cut the air, we get our own version of fall foliage.
It's not as brilliant nor dramatic as the forests back home, but no less satisfying. The way the orange-red corduroy hug the contours of the hills under sapphire skies has a soothing effect on me. It's a beautiful swansong, both poignant with a note of finality and uplifting with the promise of new life.