Winter Storms and Tropical Memories


We awake at what should be the crack of dawn and a sunny fall morning, but instead we are engulfed by darkness and heavy fog on the third day of a non-stop winter storm - constant buckets of rain and occasional mighty gust of wind that shakes the house, some up to 60 miles an hour. There are trees down and flood warnings for the Napa River. Power and phones are out for thousands in the North Bay, and streets are closed and traffic has been re-routed as storm drains fill and are unable to handle the constant deluge and rising tidewaters.

The weather report states that we’ve had over 7 “ from this series of storms, with more rain on the way, but locals’ accounts vary from 8.5 to 11" in rain gauges throughout the valley. Our little stream at the bottom of the vineyard, which was dry last week, has become a rushing torrent and can be heard easily from our deck. The vines are quickly losing their fall-colored leaves and will be soon only be naked, dormant skeletons of the previous vintage.

However, this storm is really not that unusual for the Napa Valley, nor is it disastrous as it sounds, but has only become annoying to us because of our recent memories - this time last week we awoke to the sounds of the warm breeze in the palms and the gentle lapping of the Sea of Cortez on the beach at Los Barriles, a small “ex-patriot” village on the East Cape of Baja California, Mexico.  From our vacation home on the beach, we watched as the sun rose over the sea, showing brilliant colors that only a tropical paradise could offer. The waters were calm and warm, and the amazing variety and colors of fish seen snorkeling just offshore became a validation of Jacques Cousteau’s claim that the Sea of Cortez is “the earth’s aquarium”.

Fishing cruisers and local pangas left the harbor every morning, returning with catches of wahoo and tuna, grouper and game fish, and when the afternoon wind picked up, the wind and kite surfers flocked to the shore and rode the air all day. The temperatures ranged from 60 to 85, and bathing suits, beach towels and flip-flops were the dress of the day.

So, as we hear threats about the rising tides of the Napa River and bundle up to go out and do our chores and re-route the overflowing gullies coming off of the vineyard, we keep remembering the words to the song Everybody’s Talking at Me and relive recent memories of “going where the weather suits my clothes”. We could re-pack our carry-on vacation bags at a moment’s notice, if anyone wants to invite us back . . .

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