Late January and early February in the Northern San Joaquin Valley can drive you crazy if you let it.
It’s kind of like living in a refrigerator where the temperatures are stuck in the range that keeps food fresh but the bulb that comes on when you open the door is a dim 10 watts.
The sky is virtually a thousand variations of the same degree of gray. There’s no way of getting around it. Overcast — and fog — controls life in late January and early February in these parts.
It can drive some batty, especially those that don’t flee westward across the Altamont Pass to jobs or take to the hills to the east to climb out of the grayness to play.
We moan and groan as if the overcast and fog smothers they very life out of us. But in reality, it is the refrigerator-like qualities of late January and early February that help nurture the kaleidoscope of color and scents that we marvel at each spring.
Fog can be a downer but only if you let it.
Jogging in the early morning is a pleasure. It’s cool, your lungs don’t burn and you don’t have to worry about heat stroke.
Mornings are always pleasant. In the winter, though, the silence is magnified by the grayness. True, there are no chirping birds. The only smells are that of moisture and the repugnant odor of creosote-laced chimney smoke trapped close to the ground. It is not the aromatic repertoire of spring where almond blossoms, fragrant roses and freshly cut grass in the morning dew wakes up all the senses.
Nevertheless, it is a rare treasure to enjoy Manteca — or anywhere else in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — under the veil of fog or simply the grayness that engulfs the valley.
Spring will come with its wildly popular smells. But like those who just pine to be like the most popular people in your class, you miss out on a real gem by selling this time of year in the valley short.
The repressive heat will return soon enough. Then those of us who forgot about our incessant complaining about the coolness that is now partially chilling us to the bones will start bellyaching for a return to winter.
Everything looks different in winter.
Trees are starker. Most plants and shrubs are in hibernation. The river runs calmer. Everything takes five.
Late January and early February is the perfect time to recharge your batteries.
Some make the mistake of starting aggressive diet/exercise programs. Not a good choice if you view what you see in nature today as a bland wasteland.
Viewing this time of year from the right perspective, however, can lay as solid a foundation as the almond trees do.
This is when cleaning out the garage makes sense as well as going through your stuff to get rid of what you don’t really need or use.
It is also the ideal time to clear your mind.
Once you do that, launching into a diet or exercise program makes sense. To do it beforehand, though, only dooms you to failure unless you have an incredible drive.
There are those who live their whole life in the valley and never learn to appreciate the interlude that passes as winter.
They complain that they rarely see the sun. It’s not warm enough and it’s not cold enough.
It’s a shame because they never truly understand the uniqueness of nature when it comes to the Central Valley. The fact that fog permeates from the sandy loam and does not drift in off water provides a clue to why the valley has such rich soil.
It is the perfect type of climate for everything from vines to roses to bask in the infancy of their growing seasons.
January is not a wasted month as one might believe. It is a time when nature rejuvenates itself.
And if you take the right attitude, it is also the time you can chill out and regroup.
Say what you want about the valley supposedly having only two seasons. It’s simply not true. Winter here is a unique experience that sets the stage for one of the most spectacular springs on the planet.
That in itself should be enough to keep your soul wrapped in warmth until the first buds start setting on the almonds.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org