7 Flowers dancing in the rain

Stuart Street Flowers 4Please click on any image to enlarge it!

After a weekend’s steady downpour that forced me to stay holed up in my small studio, the weather gods at last loosened their leash. Monday after was “blessed” with only intermittent drizzle. This enticed me to venture forth and document for you the nearby neighbourhood at Stuart Street, on which I would have my lodging until end of May.

Stuart Street Flower 1

But first some remarks about the weather in the Bay Area. It is pretty predictable and generally benign. Freezing temperatures occur only once every fifty years or thereabouts. Winter season is characterised by frequent thunderstorms with heavy downpours, egged on by cold air currents rushing down along the coast from Alaska. Around April, the torrents abide and the area is blessed with clear air and steady sunshine, but still nicely cool temperatures.

Stuart Street Flower 2

When Summer approaches, a most peculiar phenomenon occurs. Mark Twain, who was supposed to have declared “the coldest winter he ever had experienced was the summer in San Francisco”, aptly described it.

Stuart Street Flower 3

As the Great Central Valley is heating up in the early morning, the air in the valley starts to rise, which creates a sucking vacuum drawing in new air from afar. Outside on the coast, the air above the Pacific is cooled by remarkably cold sea currents, which sweep down from Alaska and deviate from the coast first a bit north of Los Angeles (the opposite to our Gulf Stream, so to speak).

Stuart Street Flower

This cool air is sucked inland, rising over the low coastal hills and falling down into the valley. To us humble humans it has the appearance of low clouds or, if you wish, a wet blanket that covers San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Berkeley opposite the Gate. This at the same time humid and cold blanket acts like a self-monitored air conditioner, enhancing working productivity during the morning hours, the most active hours of the day.

Stuart Street Flower 5

As the land on the San Francisco peninsula and in Berkeley gets heated up during the morning, the difference in temperature to the valley beyond abates and the drawing in of air from the Pacific comes to a gradual stop around noon. Eventually, the clouds are dissolved, at least in Berkeley, and temperature rises from generally 10 degrees Celsius in the morning, to over 30 degrees in the afternoon.

Stuart Street Flower 6

This peculiarity goes on well into Autumn, until the valley gets cooler temperatures again and the vacuum effect stops. As the end of the year approaches, there is again a blessed time of clear air and cool sunshine, which then passes into the winter storm season. By now you may have guessed why my sojourn was planned for April/May. I wanted to benefit from the blessed spring period of cool sunshine. Unfortunately, the timing was not perfect. This year, the winter storms lasted far longer than usual, which the local weathermen attribute to “El Niño”, which is exerting its fickle influence as far North as California.

View from my window

This leads us back to the real topic of this chapter. Stuart Street is a nice little residential street at a certain distance from Campus, which keeps its residents abreast from the ruckus one so much enjoys when venturing to the university, but prefers to have at a distance when it is time for siesta or quiet evenings. Town regulations forbid the building of large residences in the area, with the result being that the neighbourhood remains in stasis. Not a single house has been removed since we lived here 35 years ago.

Stuart Street Japanese House

Everything is exactly as it was then. All the small houses along the street have a small street garden. Some of the owners are Japanese and you can see this by the well arranged and kept, and usually short cut, plantings they exhibit in front of their houses. My personal favourites are the more unruly owners who let their plants more or less grow as they will and do only the minimum necessary for keeping up appearances.

Stuart Street 2

After the rain, the vegetation obliges the weather gods by getting off to a tremendous competition in growth. As you walk on the sidewalk along the residences, you sometimes have the feeling of entering a green tunnel or a jungle, so overpowering the greenery has become after the recent gushing from the sky.

Stuart Street 3

When, as it happened on that April Monday, the drizzle eventually stops and clouds transform into mist, you may have the good fortune to observe a beautiful scene above the tree tops, as shown on the previous page: a sun aura, caused by the sun rays being dispersed through a myriad of small water drops suspended in the sky – a phenomenon similar to rainbows.

Stuart Street Aura

You can imagine that I was happy as a lark, ambling along the sidewalks of Stuart Street and taking it all in. Even the recurring drizzle did not prevent me from admiring the many-coloured flowers adorning the various street gardens. Can you picture me standing, sometimes even kneeling, half-way in the flower beds, umbrella delicately balanced on one shoulder to shelter the camera from getting wet and pointing my trusted Nikon at those small petalous marvels, like a cowboy pointing his gun?

Stuart Street Flower 7