In Southern California there is the phenomenon of June Gloom, which is often preceded by May Gray. This happens right after the most glorious months in the SoCal calendar; the temperate breeze, the distant sun coaxing out the riotous jasmine, hibiscus, magnolia, citrus blossoms (which never seem to have a dormant season, truth be told) and my favorite – the odorless, pestilentially messy jacaranda. After 14 years here, this proliferation of colors and scents serves as a reminder that soon will be the roasting season. The beauty of the springtime changes anticipation to omen -presaging months – often extending through Thanksgiving – of feeling like a lizard baking on a rock every time the sweet respite of the blessed Central Air (praise be unto Mr. Carrier and all his issue) is abandoned, not quite mitigated by the knowledge that there’s not enough water here to sustain mosquitoes.
But every year I forget about May Gray. And June Gloom. When the winds off the ocean hit the breezes from the land in a way that I’ve never bothered to understand as closely as I knew the mechanics of the dreaded tornado when I was a midwesterner. The Gloom and the Gray aren’t a threat to life and limb. The foggy marine layer keeps Los Angeles implausibly cool. The sun isn’t as bright for as many hours a day, for one thing. It insulates us from the worst of it, in the morning at least. And in the evening, the thick batting of clouds seems to quieten the streets, even as it diffuses the light pollution of the sprawling city, blurring the glare of the moon and blotting out the stars, lending the atmosphere a surreal glow.
When I look out the window I can see the spindly Mexican fan palms, nearly a century old, silhouetted against the faux-twilight of the Gray (or Gloom, depending on the time-stamp of this post) making my neighborhood a panaromic Dr. Seuss illustration. There is something gently ominous about this muffled glowing – something that marks this time, this place, as slip-stream. Interstitial. Neither spring, nor summer. Hovering in a holding pattern.
Maybe that’s how I’ve felt for a few months. Quiescent, yet wobbly. Like a jostled flan, or a jiggled silicone implant. I’m trapped in amber at work, with a job going nowhere but probably eventually disappearing. Every day at my desk feeling less confident about the skills I may have gained, which of course, makes it more difficult to try to find another position. And the gentle muffling of the Gloom (or the Gray) settles on me and says it doesn’t matter. It’s fine. Just keep going and cash your paychecks/observe your direct deposit until they tell you not to do it anymore.
And 14 years. I can hardly believe it myself. This is the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere, makng LA as much of a “hometown” as anywhere else ever was. But this Gloom and Gray… it reminds me of my favorite liturgical season (what, you don’t have a favorite liturgical season? That’s OK. I won’t tell anyone) which is Advent. Not Christmas. Not Lent (I know a surprising number of overly-penitent masochists who claim Lent is their favorite season. I think they’re just trying to show off). But the time of anticipation of a big change happening. I speak in the passive voice, which I suppose should concern me. But right now, at the moment, I’m wondering if LA is where I should be. Or if it’s fine that I’m here now, but in a few years, I should be somewhere else.
But I am ill-suited to big changes. I will be here, unable to choose what book to read next, listening to the hold music of the universe, and watching as the neon charcoal sky holds the city together for one more night.