california life san francisco sweets

Springing Ahead

7 March 2009

[First daffodils, February 2009.]

Tomorrow is my favorite day of the year. Yes, my birthday is nice, and Christmas, too, and I surely do love a good Thanksgiving when you start the meal early and let it go late, but truth be told the day the time ‘springs’ forward is the day I wait and long for from the moment of the fall time change. Even the idea of it is so nice: Daylight Saving Time — a chance to save and revel in as much daylight as we possibly can. I’ll take ‘losing’ an hour of sleep and being a bit tired (though hopefully not grumpy) in my Sunday yoga class because I know the light will linger until past 7p and that is something for which I’ll be imminently grateful.

Have I mentioned it’s the simple things in life I love most?

After a soggy few weeks (and weekends; if it’s true it’s been raining off-and-on during the past five weekends the darn reservoirs should be at least half-way back to normal levels and we can revel in a couple of sunny days) today has been sun-filled for the whole of it. I woke up a bit earlier than I would’ve liked to (8.30, which is not my habitual Saturday wake-up but my brain was ready and so that was that) and could see sun and blue skies seeping in through the space between shade and window frame. If I couldn’t pull the covers back over my head and tumble back into dreams at least I could walk into a warm rest of my apartment and settled in with a cup of coffee and Runner’s World to make the most of the morning. The air, today, has smelled of the ocean and that’s one of my very favorite things about living near to it; certainly it was not cold today but neither was it by any stretch of the imagination hot because of that coastal breeze. While I may curse it from time to time when it will rather rudely — and unexpectedly — blow in reams of fogs without warning the constant fresh, invigorating air is much appreciated.

I grew up in Sebastopol, about 20 minutes from the Pacific, which is a place where the nights are perpetually cool and the mornings fog-bound. The air smells delicious, especially when it rains, of water and damp roads and grass and earth and bay leaves. During the summer we used to go to a particular beach where a wide creek flowed into the sea and take lunches of bologna and margarine spread on bread that wilted in the sun to eat on a flat spot out of view of the ocean. Until I was about five years old I was inexplicably terrified of it; after eating, my dad and younger brother would brush off the crumbs and head off over the slight rise while I refused to go and instead busied myself with tracing drawings in the sand. When they would return, full of stories of dogs and sand castles and toss a shell in my general direction, I felt foolish but for a long time couldn’t bring myself to accompany them.

I still don’t know why I was so afraid but one day I decided enough was enough and walked down to the waves with them. I put my feet in the water and felt the cold sink into my bones in the way the Pacific does in all seasons and I never was afraid again. After that, the sea was endlessly fascinating in all its moods; I used to think I loved it best in the fog but then I’d go out there on a clear spring morning when the sun shone down strongly and the tide was high on the sand and think, no, better this way after all. I love the Sonoma coast with every bit of me, and the Marin coast, too (sorry, dad), and I love that I get to live in a city where I can take the bus a half-hour down to the beach to dip my toes into that cold water whenever I have the time and inclination. Maybe I wouldn’t appreciate it so much except that I lived away from here for so long, though I think probably I might even if I’d never left.

In a few weeks I’ll have been living in Northern California for three years which, five years ago, would have felt an impossible concept. I enjoyed my time on the East Coast for the most part but it’s a funny thing when you belong to a place; it’s your place and thus if you are not there you’ll forever feel a missing for it. Still, even though I always knew where I belonged it was difficult to extricate from a good job, amazing friends, a sense of comfort and familiarity that cannot be discounted. It’s true sometimes I miss my old life in DC — the impromptu dinners at various friends’ homes, late-night drinks after working the late shift, meeting up for happy hours in the neighborhood (a lot of us lived within walking distance of each other), cadging ‘seconds’ and summer squash when my brother worked the Mt. Pleasant farmers’ market — but home is where your heart is and my heart has always belonged to California. I can’t explain it, really, but that’s the way it is.

Now, what has this all got to do with ice cream? Not much, really, except that days like today deserve to be elevated above the ordinary with a bit of something else, something like ice cream. I was going to a house warming party later in the day so after my run I dragged myself up the hill back to the liquor store where the guy who’s mostly always there and I invariably have a chat about a) the weather b) his random drives to LA and back c) how much younger I look than 30 (small confession, in the words of my sweet friend Lupe: I LOVE it when I am asked for my ID) and d) how incredibly delicious peanut-butter ice cream tastes. So I couldn’t help myself on this very spring-like afternoon when the sea-breeze was curling up the ends of my hair and blowing all round my ears and making me tuck my hands tight into my jacket pockets; I had to get a pint of Hagen Dazs.

I eat pretty well. I mostly pick what’s in season and am drawn to lots of vegetables and fruits. But some days I can’t help but wish for a bit of decadence. I think we all deserve it, don’t you think? At the very least, it’s a nice tribute to the next season.

Let’s all dig in.

  • E 11 March 2009 at 7:13 am

    Despite the fact that i live on the opposite coast and have never visited San Fran., your writing is so descriptive and lovely that it almost feels like I know “exactly” how the air smells. Only if……
    I’m now living in your old neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant and the old hood has changed quite a lot in the past 3 years, and I’m sure you’d enjoy it just as much with all its changes. Thank you for writing such posts. They’re delightful reads.

  • Jesse 9 March 2009 at 4:28 pm

    You were not lying about the sun! It was a fantastic and gorgeous weekend. I was drawn to ice cream too, despite the fact that it’s still so very very chilly here. Happy spring!

  • randy 8 March 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks for the great story Nicole. I feel the same way about Daylight Savings Time and wish they’d just keep it here once and for all.

    We’re glad to have you back and it’s hard to believe it has been three years already. Awesome!

  • justrun 8 March 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Peanut butter ice cream? I think my world just stopped!

    Woo hoo for springtime!

  • robin 8 March 2009 at 4:00 pm

    I love today too, though yesterday was warmer and sunnier over here. Can’t wait for spring and to put my feet (well my whole body) in the ocean again. Thanks for reminding me how much I love it.

  • Whitney 8 March 2009 at 7:18 am

    Lovely post. I just woke up a 2nd day of cold rain with fog here in Chicago. It is hard to believe that we are “springing forward” and maybe the end of winter is near. I read so many people’s blogs who live in Northern CA and it has really made me want to schedule a vacation (or a move).

    Thanks for sharing a glimpse of San Fran.