It was a Thursday, and it was one of those days in Monterey when the air is washed and polished like a lens, so that you can see the houses in Santa Cruz twenty miles across the bay and you can see the redwood trees on a mountain above Watsonville. The stone point at Fremont’s Peak, clear the other side of Salinas, stands up nobly against the east. The sunshine had a goldy look and red geraniums burned the air around them. The delphiniums were like little openings in the sky. From Sweet Thursday by John Steinback
It’s February in northern New Mexico. The trees are bare and with the exception of a recently installed “forever” lawn in front of an office building on Paseo de Peralta, there isn’t a blade of green grass in sight. Nothing is blooming. It’s been unusually warm, but it doesn’t feel right to wish for an early spring when we desperately need snow.
So instead, I am rereading Sweet Thursday. I can picture the rocky coastline along Monterey Bay, cypress trees yawning east, where Doc in his rubber boots, wooden pail in hand, is collecting samples from the tide pools. When he returns to Cannery Row, Mack and the gang will be waiting, hoping to bum a dollar or two for beer.
I was in Monterey in February once. In pouring rain we drove down from San Francisco and had a flat. Dave changed the tire on the side of a dark road. A stranger watched and shared his umbrella and bottle of whiskey. I think it was a Thursday.
By Saturday, the day of the wedding that we had come for, the air was clear and bracing and smelled clean and briny. Wearing a scarlet dress I posed with the bride for a photo on the emerald lawn outside the chapel, our satin heels sinking into the damp dirt. It was a magical place where sea otters played in the bay and geraniums bloomed in the middle of winter.
I look back across the years and miles, longing to return, but I know it wouldn’t be the same. California is suffering from a drought as bad or worse than New Mexico’s. The forecast in Monterey today is for a high of sixty-five, cloudy with no chance of rain.
Downstairs by the French doors I have three big clay pots on wheels, planted with geraniums. Too long indoors, the leaves are leggy, large and pale, pressing towards the glass, reaching for the sun. Today I will give them a drink of water, but it will be weeks before the last threat of frost of has passed and I can roll them outside.