Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Winter, I hardly recognized ye!

Gutters flushing, wipers flapping, rain drops tapping. With the onset of the rainy season, our dried-out world has been made new.

We all knew the rains would come eventually, didn’t we? Our bone-dry valley couldn’t stay that way forever.

Then again, all those actual and threatened power shutoffs and the constant dread of wildfires had worn me down. My optimism that the dry season would transition into a wet one had shriveled.

Until it actually rained at the tail end of November, even the professional forecasters were a downcast lot. In an age of climate change, virtually anything could happen. A winter of droplets. A winter of flooding. Who could say?

Fearing the worst, Cheryl began running hose in October to some of our largest trees. They weren’t going to die on her watch!

I was more accepting of whatever the weather gods might dish out. Do redwoods and blue spruces grow in Saudi Arabia? Well, then, maybe they shouldn’t be growing here either.

In early November, Cheryl looked out our back window and freaked. Our Australian tea tree — a 15-footer she planted over 20 years go — appeared dead. We both scrambled for a closer look.

I think I can revive it, Cheryl said.

Deader than dead, I said.

Cheryl began hose IVs, but there was little change. If anything, the tree got browner. I implored Cheryl to let me cut it down. She went indoors and refused to watch.

I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement when that first storm rolled in. Water fell prolifically, wastefully, wonderfully from the heavens — enough rain to keep firefighters indoors, their bomber fleet grounded. Enough rain to wash dust and smoke from the skies.

Everything seemed strange those first few days. The unfamiliar sound of windshield wipers. The gleam of wet asphalt. Ginkgos abruptly stripped of their yellow leaves.

Driving over the First Street bridge, I couldn’t stop myself from glancing down at the river. Were we at flood stage yet?

Obviously we weren’t. A week of first rains does not a flood make, but try telling that to my drought-shriveled brain.

With Napa cold and wet instead of warm and dry, it was time for me to dig out my winter wardrobe. That was a happy flip. I love my winter shirts more than my summer ones.

We turned on our gas furnace. Fried dust whooshed from the floor vents. The house became snug and cozy the way a mountain cabin is depicted as snug and cozy. We didn’t need snow.

Going to bed when rain’s pounding on the roof is soothing, except when it isn’t. I had to decide last Sunday night if I were going to do my usual morning jog and get soaked.

I am wary of rain running. I don’t like squishy shoes.

At the same time, once I break through the dry-wet barrier and hit the road, good things almost always happen.

And you, Cheryl? Running with me tomorrow?

She gave a little laugh. Has one of us lost their mind?

My solo outing went well. I disturbed five deer waiting for grass to green. I discovered holiday lights that had gone up immediately after Thanksgiving. Good job, people!

It’s now the countdown to Christmas. As I write this column at mid-week, my yard has received 5 inches of rain and more is in the pipeline. You’ll get no complaint from me.

It was unfortunate that last weekend’s Christmas parade had to be canceled. Then again, would we have fully enjoyed a march-about if we were still in wildfire season?

All this rain spurred Cheryl to boil the Thanksgiving turkey carcass to make bone broth, a precursor of turkey soup.

No one makes bone broth in summer. Bone broth is what you make when the weather has turned and you’ve retreated indoors in anticipation of what you hope will be a long, wet winter.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.