The air wrapped around me like cool silk. As I walked it warmed just enough to hint that the sun would be stronger in an hour, but not hot, not today. Warm, fresh air with overtones of sage and warm cement wafted around me. The sensation of this winter day transported me to my high school years in a town south of here, walking to school in January wearing a new sweater and woolen skirt, rarely needed and often longed for, like those preppy girls back east wearing the fashions on magazine covers. I wanted to be them. To live in a place with seasons where you needed warm clothes in winter, with snow on the ground at Christmas.
I have been in such a place. I know what it feels like to need warm clothes when you leave the house, to layer your clothes, put on a jacket, a hat, a scarf, gloves. Day, after day, after day it is not so romantic.
Today is Sunday. The weekly farmer’s market is thriving, the flower stall, first on the right, sends strong, cold, sweet fragrances blasting across the walk way. The Japanese farmer next to it sells only field greens, like arugula, dandelion, mizuna, mustard, and purslane, and mushrooms such as enoki, chanterelle, shitoke, boleti, all with earth clinging to roots and stems.
Oranges, apples, berries, celery, peas, green beans, and more lie on tables, the names of the farms on signs behind them. Stalls bearing brown, crusty artisan breads, rolls, muffins and cakes, local goat cheeses,and fresh fish stalls give way to a few stands with hand made items like jewelry and pottery and knitted caps. A man sells cacti and succulents, another all kinds of plants and vines. Locals and people from outside Claremont push children in prams, hold toddlers’ hands, and older people,walking more slowly, stop to squeeze avocados. Most people are wearing shorts, light tops, and sandals.
Every Sunday a groups of musicians, all past 50, gather to play folk music or blues or country at the market. Today it is Mexican folk music, mariachi-like violins scratch out familiar tunes to make your feet itch to dance. At the end of the street, closed off for the market, you can turn left or right to the small shops, cafes, and restaurants which make up the village, sit outside and have a coffee or a light lunch or a real Sunday Lunch.
Mountains like cut outs against the blue sky form a backdrop to the town and colleges, and I almost get the car to drive up there, to sit beside the little stream on a warm boulder. Better yet, I could get my paints and brushes and paint the whitish bark of leafless trees, the gray of granite, the stark, stick like remains of bushes and grass. But I don’t. I go to the cafe on the square for a coffee and croissant and listen to today’s busker sing Bojangles and a couple of other songs. He gives up, puts his guitar away and counts his money. I saunter back home, content to have nothing to do except to be here where I am, right now.
- Christmas in California……..