Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Jonquils, lilies of the valley, daffodils, quince — all of them began to flower in our yard before January ended.

I was thrilled. Way to go, Mother Nature.

Not Cheryl. These January blossoms horrified her. It’s too early, she feared. They’ll be whacked by frost.

She worries about “early blossoming” every year, yet I remain unperturbed. Somehow the plants seem to muddle through.

Cheryl did not find my what-me-worry attitude calming. Just look at the azaleas, she said, pointing to the eruption of white in our side yard. Tell me that’s not a perversion of nature!

I’m not a botanist. All I know is that our flowering plants have it lots better than their brethren in America’s heartlands where a polar bear — I mean, polar vortex — has marauded with impunity in recent times.

Most members of my extended family live east of the Mississippi. You could say they never had the sense to move to the West Coast.

Facebook posts tell their stories. They cope with snow drifts and sub-zero temperatures. They’re months away from their first daffodil.

To give these relatives a little hope, I’ve considered posting a photo of our lemon tree. It’s dripping with an obscene amount of fruit. How are your lemon trees, I could ask.

Yet I do miss real winters. I have nostalgia for the rugged months of my boyhood in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. I binged on snow forts, snow romps and massive snowball fights.

The best part of sixth grade was the day that two classrooms of students took to the playground and waged snowball warfare until we were all giddy with exhaustion.

In my memory, that teacher-sanctioned event lives on as a magnificent battle royale the equal of any showdown on “Game of Thrones.”

My parent self recoils at this sixth grade mayhem. Surely the entire sixth grade went home that day blinded by icy projectiles.

My snow recollections were triggered Monday when the National Weather Service warned of possible overnight snowfall around the Napa Valley. Snow as low as 400 feet.

What an exciting prospect, Napa Valley snow. You don’t see that every year.

At dinner, I told Cheryl to prepare for something spectacular. We all know how often the weather experts can be wrong. Instead of stopping at 400 feet, maybe the snow level would drop to 50 and our yard would be buried in white at dawn.

Do we have a snow shovel, Cheryl?

Cheryl shared my excitement. After 40 flakeless years in west Napa, she’d welcome her first dig out.

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We went to bed that night under double comforters, such was the chill in our bedroom as the outdoor temp plunged to freezing. I couldn’t have been happier.

I awoke numerous times. The night was ominously quiet. Then again, if it were snowing, quiet is exactly how the night would be.

When our alarm went off, I turned on a porch light to examine our deck. It was glazed with ice, but the surface wasn’t white.

Disappointing, for sure, but what about the hills?

Driving to work as the sun came up, I looked for signs of a snow apocalypse in the distance.

Nothing! The Weather Service forecast had been a charade.

Circumstances improved once I got to the office and turned on my computer. Napans from wilder parts of the county had begun reporting snow sightings.

I feasted on submitted images of landscapes made magical by soft cloaks of whiteness.

Lovely, lovely, lovely — each and every one of them.

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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.