I’ve heard the mockingbird singing from the top of the fan palm three mornings in a row. Today when I was lying on my back in the courtyard on my yoga mat, I listened to the verdin’s sweet three-note call. I pictured him sitting in the pine tree, his bright yellow cap and cheerful eyes hidden among the long green needles. Last week, both the hibiscus and the apricot mallow began to bloom again. The crickets have woken up, too. In spite of still mostly three-digit temperatures, they all recognize the secret signals, a heady mixture of the fewer hours of high heat each day, the angle of the sun making its way south, the nights in the seventies. And they aren’t grumbling like I am–tired of the heat, my tolerance used up–though they have more reason to than I who could escape it. They don’t indulge in weariness–they bounce. They celebrate in song, in bloom.
And their festivities cheer me on. I relish the feel of the cotton sheet over me in the early hours of the morning, the occasional weight of Sofia against leg or hip, missing for months now, a welcome surprise. I look forward to the day when I’ll be seeking the warmth of the sun on the patio when I do my yoga instead of hiding from it. I’ve lived in California most of my life, and still I bristle when someone tells me there are no seasons here. They are subtle but marked. Do not tell me otherwise. Soon the long clusters of green berries on the fan palm will ripen, and the starlings will feast, scattering in shiny black chattering when I walk outside. The days will grow shorter, the blue of the sky deeper. Riding my bike will become sheer bliss. Sometimes I think our desert, where some claim we have only two seasons, may mark the changes in the year more clearly than other parts of the state. Though I realize the changes are less visual than visceral. Here in the fall we begin to reawaken. We return to a state of grace, of ease in the outdoors.
The seasons were subtle in the places I lived in Mexico, too. But they were undeniable unless you just weren’t paying attention. In Todos Santos, the summer rains made for muggy heat, a boon for bugs, biting and otherwise. But it washed the dusty desert clean, changed the color of the world, the lush plant life made new. In winter you could go barefoot in the warm dry days. I remember sitting in my third-floor roost in La Casa Azul, my feet propped up against the rebar railing, marveling at being barefoot in the middle of January. You knew it was winter there by the nights. In Ajijic, jacarandas trumpeted the burgeoning spring, their lilac blossoms littering the cobblestones. The “rainbirds” were the harbingers of the summer rains, not birds at all but insects, a kind of cicada, I think. You could mark the onset of the rains on the calendar from the date you first heard the rainbirds sing. Autumn there meant a world of green, the hills bathed in all their new-growth glory after months of nightly rain. And fresh, sweet corn was everywhere.