Yesterday the air felt different than it has here for a long time … there was a thickness, a dampness … and with it a hint at the possibility of rainfall. Everything here it seems is ready for some long overdue rain. Even though sunny days and daytime temps in the high 60’s and lower 70’s might seem ideal, one does get to the point of yearning for a blanket of cloud cover and the feel of rain on your face (or whiskers, leaves, fur etc). But for the so many other beings, it is not a matter of comfort or preference, but now a matter of survival.
The sky was cloudy all day today, with very little actual precipitation so far, but still hope for the next 24 hours. As I walked this evening at sunset in the hills, the vastness of the Bay area as seen from the hills seemed to shrink under the gray sky, with everything seeming to be a little bit closer, as if suddenly we were all in one big room together. Sound moves in a different way, slightly muffled and not quite so free – calls that recently would seem to dissipate quickly into space now stick around a few moments longer, and hold a closer presence that one can almost touch.
The great-horned owls were very vocal as darkness started to make my eyes strain, and their hoots to one another sounded as if they were always in a tree just behind me, the sound having a life of its own. As I started up towards the top of the hill, which beckoned to me despite my readiness to start walking out, I rejoiced to see an old friend – a California newt! Usually a common site during the winter months of rain here in NorCal, I hadn’t seen one yet this year. As I moved up the hillside (the beckoning of the hill won), and more and more of them came into view, scrambling and crawling and dancing their way from their hiding places where they have remained out of sight for many months. Now, with the promise of rain, some of them are migrating towards what will hopefully soon be streams and ponds to mate – the same ponds and streams where they themselves were born.
The open grazing land which dominates the landscape moving up the hill was damp but not wet, and my footfalls were quiet instead of crunchy as they’ve been for so many months. But at the top of the hill the Monterey Pines were adorned with shining drops of water on the tips of their leaves as if it had rained just above them. Similar to the mighty redwoods, these trees “milk” the moisture from the air, condensing water on their leaves until it actually starts to rain underneath the canopy just from that water. As I walked under them, I was refreshed by licking some of the water off the leaves and feeling a few drops land on my face.
With just the slight glow of the gray sky above me and the lights of the cities laid out below, I made my way back down the hill. I was mindful of the many newts that seemed to be appearing out of nowhere, just dark shapes on the ground in front of me, each of them following that which calls to them and leads them from their long slumber beneath the trees.