San Diego is truly a place on the border and not just because of Mexico. Go out into the ocean a few miles and you can drop into deep trenches that bring cold water, whales, and deep sea creatures. This completely different world is geographically close but wholly alien. In the same way, a trip up into the mountains in winter is a journey into another climate zone, another season. On Sunday I took Child Harbat and her friend up to see the snow. The girls were bubbly with excitement, ready to make snowmen and snow angels and snow ponies and snow babies and OHMYGOD THERE’S SOME SNOW! This was shrieked at the first clump of dirty snow we passed after driving about thirty minutes. We climbed and the temperature dropped to freezing, the misty rain turned to heavy snowflakes, and we transitioned to a world of wintertime.
I’ve grown up where snow is a yearly occurrence, despite what idiotic drivers seemed to realize. Snow fell from the sky in winter and the landscape you were used to got a nice white coating. Pretty and different but not amazing. It’s completely different to drive from the warmth of San Diego up the highway and arrive, under an hour, into another world. The girls were about to bust right through the roof of the car like pneumatic hammers so I pulled over at the first snowy field we could find and let them loose. There was squealing, oh lawdy the squealing. There were attempts at snow angels, snowballs, and snow forts, and at one point the girls were on all fours, grazing through fresh snow to lick it up and experience the joy of eating cold snow. Also the word “snow” was said a few thousand times.
Eventually they were corralled into the car, wet mittens and hats dumped in a messy pile along with muddy boots, and we drove higher into the mountains for Julian, a small town that gets absolutely packed with tourists during the fall and winter. We found a place to eat, hot chocolate was chugged, and extremities thawed out. The sky was the color of dirty aluminum, the signs shimmied in a strong icy wind, and the trees were bent over with a frosting of wind-spat ice. There was even a pony pulling a tiny sleigh with tourists wrapped thick with scarves and coats. It was the most Christmasy I’ve felt all year.
On the ride back I got to experience the inanity of little girl conversation. Some comments were surprisingly lucid: “Snow is just ice!”, others were incomprehensible: “I’m a mee baby and you can nurse smoothies from my hand!”. At one apex of apple pie-fuelled spazzing, the girls started a most-annoying-sound contest. I won by screeching like a Siamang gibbon in a territorial dispute, then immediately lost the title to a pair of yowling “Mee Kitties” that desperately needed spaying.
The whole time I could sense how this was imprinting on Child Harbat, the feel of icy toes, the smell of fresh snow and wet pavement, the taste of hot chocolate when your nose is still numb from cold, and the joy of experiencing this with your best friend. Though I’ve grown up with snow in all forms, this outing to the snowy mountains was for the girls as foreign as a trip to the deep ocean would be for me. Writing this today in a warm sunny office it’s still hard to believe how close these other worlds lay, how fragile my perceived stability. There’s nothing better to remind you of who you are and what’s important than to get out of your comfortable world and go exploring.