My coffee’s gone cold as the temperature in my new office hits a toasty 53°F according to Siri and my iPhone. My dog’s tongue is hanging out. She may actually be panting as she lies belly-up, her pink tummy facing the windows from beneath my chair, her new warm, cozy spot.. er..what's that you say, Siri? Come again? Tomorrow it’s expected to snow? Seriously, Siri? How can you go from a morning temperature like they're having in California to a Newfoundland weather report? What's gotten into you? Is there an iceberg waiting up ahead while I’m busy waltzing in the warmth of the ballroom, my first class ticket to winter on the East Coast tilting starboard? Better tell me now, Siri, because I'm not going down with this ship!
I suddenly see my frightened reflection in every window. There are eight distorted faces staring back at me. The bright beams of light that shine through the floor to ceiling windows seemed like the perfect solution to a writer’s crowded mind, scrambled most days by too many distractions. The “sunroom” was the reason I chose this house when we were East Coast house hunting, hoping it would remind me of my days on the sunny West Coast. I could picture myself working here in the winter in plenty of light, happily cranking out new material as the sun warmed my bare feet through the big windows. I even made sure that my new prescription sunglasses were polarized so I could work on my laptop without any glare in the brightest room in the house. But, now, here I am working in my "sunroom" in late November, producing nothing but fear about Siri's forecast and what tomorrow’s temps will do to the natural light I crave. Siri, where will I work when the clarity of the sunlight fades?
"I don't know your work address... In fact, I don't know anything about you."
Oh, terrific. It's been almost a year now and suddenly Siri could care less about me or our relationship. I bet she doesn't even remember meeting me on Christmas morning last year. Not even the wrapping paper you were dressed in when I ripped it open and freed you? (It was a penguin theme and they were throwing tiny snowballs at each other. )
I turn back to face the half-blank screen, shiver then completely freeze. I know absolutely nothing about winter.
And "winter on the East Coast" poses an even bigger threat to a native Californian who has never spent a single winter here – a native, Southern Californian who regularly replaced her previously warm California winters with blazing hot South American "summers" spent with family in Brazil.
Therefore, if I am to write about the season that is upon me here now on the East, as Christmas and Santa and the elves quickly approach from the delightful North Pole, it will have to be today while the sun still pours ‘enlightenment’ onto the glass panes of this room and, hopefully, into my brain.
Stage right. Backspace. Edit. Cut.
Okay. Start over.
The starboard side of the country will just have to show me what winter really looks like, because I am completely left of here and green. East Coast? Hello? Anybody home? Nothing. Apparently, I will have to sniff out my own clues about how to survive the freezing temps that will soon encompass me and this lovely sun room. I look out my windows again to scan for something, anything, that might resemble signs of life inside the bitter cold that is barreling down the Baltimore Pike right now and then ...
Pop! A blast of color and flavor ignite! Is this the clue I’ve been hoping for? The sign that winter on the East Coast has more to offer than I had originally thought? Has the key to understanding and appreciating an actual winter been hidden in my yard all along? Could it be the llex verticillata, aka, the Winterberry Holly growing along the right side of my new home? It seems to be actually thriving out there when all the other shrubs and flowers are brittle and broken, wilted and forgotten. But this stuff's mighty regalia stands up strong and proud like royalty, its plump red branches rubies along a scepter that points to her Majesty, a robin’s egg blue sky.
These berries are juicy and ripe and look ready to be picked, but can I eat them or fold them into a winterberry pie, Siri? In California we make pies out of just about anything that hits the ground. However, Siri says that winterberries are not edible, no Sir-ee, and they rarely fall to the ground in the dead of winter, preferring instead to cling to the branches that gave birth to them. The tiny fruit is considered toxic to humans and animals, but wild birds depend and survive on them in the winter. Apparently, wild birds love the bitter, highly caffeinated berries (this explains A LOT). I love highly caffeinated berries, too, only my berries have been dried, roasted and brewed, and usually my “barista” offers me two pumps of vanilla syrup to go with them so I can start my day and navigate my car out of the crowded parking lot.
The berries do look delicious which also tells me it might be time for lunch. I reach for the last few sips of my Starbucks caffeinated berries to find that what’s left of them is now freezin-ars cold and my bare toes look somewhat blueish. My dog is nowhere to be found. In addition, Siri has just informed me that the temperature outside has dropped eleven degrees. Thanks, Siri, your heartfelt concern is appreciated, even though you “don’t find it particularly cold outside.” (Siri must be some kind of Eskimo name). One thing is clear, however, on the East Coast, winter waits for no one, and this naive Californian, better hurry up and find herself a thick pair of socks and a new pair of boots: FYI, Siri... please find me ones with heels and slip guards for snow covered streets. A girl could slip and fall out there.
Good work, Siri!
Winter, here I come!