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The beauty of the season we mistakenly dismiss as dreary

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POSTED December 23, 2008 12:55 a.m.
There is something delightfully sinful about jogging in the rain.
It is especially true on the first day of winter.
Too often we treat the dead of winter — generally December and January — as a barren wasteland on the calendar. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
It is when the Northern San Joaquin Valley starts preparing for its inevitable rebirth when the tule fog dissipates and the warming rays of spring return to re-awaken almond trees and their intoxicating sweet blossoms.
But for now, we get what we too often view as the drudgery of overcast skies, refrigerator weather, and crisp cold days when the north wind blows. It’s too bad that it is human nature to see the cup as half full. There is stark beauty in the skeletons of trees and vineyards. The grass never looks greener than in the continuous dew of winter.
Jogging in the rain cleanses the soul. Each breath is invigorating as Mother Nature’s cool drops of life tickle your face while pelting your rain slicker and legs. The rain changes the looks of everything — soil, stucco walls, pavements, and plants. They all shimmer in deep, vibrant colors as the rain washes away the dullness.
The rain changes everything.
You can glance toward the Altamont Hills and see rays of light shining through deep gray clouds illuminating the crevices and rises covered with deep, bright green. Mt. Diablo pops out on the western horizon as well.
With a little luck after this week’s storms, a cold front will sweep through offering a visual treat of the white-capped Sierra 80 miles away. Soaking in such a scene reminds you of your place in the universe as just a small speck amid nature’s grandeur.
Then, if nature is still on a roll, the tule fog will return.
They say silence is golden but in Manteca it is moist.
If you don’t believe me, take a walk in the tule fog some time. The moisture serves as a damper. Noise is muffled. Cars run quieter. Train whistles sound more distant. Even birds seem to stay quiet. The silence is deafening.
No matter how dreary you think things are, this is when the fun starts. Trees shed their leaves in descending order of grandeur — first the sycamores, then the crepe myrtles and eventually the Modesto ashes.
Then, at the apex of nature falling asleep, you can see a timeless miracle take root. You’ll see different signs every day. They’re subtle. Grass or weeds start popping up ever so slowly in shades of green from what once seemed like barren soil. It’s a slow process that most of us miss because we’re too focused on hurrying through the day.
This time of year is often associated with depression.
It’s a shame since it is when nature washes away the last traces of the yearly cycle of life and begins anew on the next.
We should do the same too.
Instead of looking at the negative, we should consider this a time to throw old habits or failings in the trash and start fresh.
Our transgressions will pass just like winter itself.
This is the time for both nature and man to prepare for rebirth.
There is a stark beauty as the world around us bares its soul.
It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

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