• Otter Views: Rainbow Monday

    In the rainy weekend’s aftermath, Monday produced the sort of skies favored by painters and photographers. Successive layers and ledges of gray framed distant cumulus towers that could have arisen from a storybook. All the grays were out, from charcoal, slate and battleship to pewter, pearl and dove.

    Here and there, slow-moving shafts of misty sunlight slanted through ragged blue windows in the clouds. Probing the sodden world below like flashlight beams, these lit up all they touched and lent vivid color to what had been drab.

    Neither painter nor photographer myself, I felt uneasy bogarting all this celestial beauty. But then I reasoned pictorial artists had been tracking this chiaroscuro cloudscape since first light, as alert to each change as duck hunters in a blind.

    Monday’s cloud diorama ushered me down the coast from San Francisco, where I had spent the weekend at my brother’s place. Hoping to skirt morning rush hour traffic there and in Santa Cruz, I left early and drove south along Highway One.

    The radio carried a lot of palaver about “Cyber Monday.” Financial nabobs postulated that a big Cyber Monday might offset this year’s disappointing Black Friday. That event, I was told, actually begins for many shoppers on Thanksgiving Thursday. Some reportedly pushed the envelope even further, camping in a Best Buy parking lot in mid-November to be first in line on bargain night.

    It’s all somewhat baffling. Tell me again why Americans are pitching tents out in the sleet, then fist-fighting and hair-pulling in electronics stores on Thanksgiving night? Is this going to be a national identifier for us now, like celebrity worship and obesity? Then, so be it. The British have soccer hooligans. I guess we can have shopping hooligans.

    Black Friday’s fistic excesses might explain the growing popularity of Cyber Monday. Why risk getting trampled in Best Buy or shin-kicked at the Genius Bar when you can shop safely from your smart phone? No, strike “safely.” Apparently Cyber Monday has become a bonanza for international credit and identity thieves. It should be called Hacker Monday.

    Before these bleak thoughts could further sour the drive, I punched off the radio and glanced seaward. Dark squalls floated like jellyfish over the horizon, stinging the ocean with filaments of rain. In the drizzly shafts where sunlight met rain, candy colors suddenly appeared. This might have been Cyber Monday elsewhere, but it was Rainbow Monday along the coast.

    The stretch of Highway One from Pacifica to Santa Cruz features several lofty, roller coaster hills that overlook long, empty beaches. As I came over the crest of one hill, the sun broke through and lit up a set of incoming waves. The water turned pellucid, coke-bottle green, and a double rainbow formed offshore.

    Just then, for a thrilling moment, I saw the dark torpedo shape of a lone dolphin within a wave, angling swiftly toward shore. The bodysurfing dolphin was lost to view as my truck sped on down the hill, but the double rainbow lingered for another half-mile, brightening the sky like two rolls of Lifesavers.

    The play of colored light on dark backdrops is a Christmas season verity that can offset Cyber Monday. As December days shorten toward the solstice, there is increasing darkness to illuminate. Once the sun sets, strings of colored bulbs sparkle vividly to life. Holiday trees pinpoint the night with red, blue, yellow, orange and green. Spotlighted crèches, Santas and yard snowmen beckon passersby.

    In rainy Decembers, the streets become a second winter sky as shiny black asphalt mirrors holiday colors. Even traffic lights gain some seasonal cachet, their elongated flares of red, green and yellow glistening in turn from wet pavement. They seem to say: Don’t freak on Black Friday. Enjoy the signals.

    In addition to rainbows, cloud towers and a bodysurfing dolphin, Monday’s coastal scenery included several Christmas tree farms newly open for business. This early in December, the cut trees are still numerous, still have all their needles, and are power-packed with piney fragrance. Winding slowly through Santa Cruz, I lowered the windows at each tree lot and enjoyed a brisk Doppler blast of evergreen.

    For me, that fresh fir tree scent and the play of colored light on rainy pavement starts the holiday season. All else will follow: poinsettia pots in gold foil, holly branches on the mantel, menorahs in the window, friends and family arriving for parties, kids in reindeer hats, egg nog sprinkled with cinnamon, holiday light shows, and bundled carolers trying to remember if it’s 10 Lords or 11 Lords A-Leaping.

    When the rain stops, another light show starts overhead. Constellations pulse and shimmer in the great black street of the winter sky. Stars and planets glow in festive strings: red, blue, yellow, orange and green. It’s all there, and it’s okay to bogart.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on December 5, 2014

    Topics: Otter Views

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