Dear you,

The rain has finally begun, here in central Cally. I am incredibly relieved, and I want to run out and lie in the wet grass and let it soak through me into the earth. Once again, by folding over from harvest season into monsoon, this place reminds me that it has five seasons, not four.

The central valley of California does not have the typical four seasons that you get in picture postcards and advertising. For winter, instead of snow, we have pouring rain, monsoons, which lasts more or less from the beginning of November to early February. Spring is long and green and gorgeous, everything budding far earlier than my youthful yankee reptile brain remembers that it should, and lasting longer. Summer is shimmering, baking, hot, parched ground and frying eggs on the sidewalk and ceiling fans hot.

Siestas would be the sensible way to live, but we're far too Calvinistic to indulge in that sort of equitorial climate sin. The heat usually breaks around the middle or the end of August, and suddenly you have harvest season. So many tomatoes that you think they will never end. I won't even mention zucchinis, the mutant pod people of the vegetable world. Feasting and going back to school and leaves falling, and also the peak of fire season. The air smells like smoke, and it makes my skin itch. This differs from high summer in that it is no longer too hot to be outside for much of the day. Still hot, but not sweltering.

Then there's autumn, when the leaves are really falling, and we start having fires in the fireplace, and everything is going back underground. Some rain, but not pouring.

Now, that makes five, not four. Winter/monsoon, spring, summer/baleful heat, zucchinis/harvest, and cool/autumn. Granted, these are more subtle than the four seasons I grew up with - spring = flowers, summer = no school, fall = red leaves, winter = snow.

Winter begins today, not just the day, but the moment it really starts to pour - the warm dry that feels like it will never end lets go, and the water takes over completely. We don't live in a desert, we live in a flood plain.

So it turns out elephants, along with most primates and bottlenose dolphins, are self aware. They can recognize themselves in a mirror, and they do not greet the elephant they see reflected - thus, self-awareness. Or at least awareness of the difference between another elephant and a reflection.

Would someone please make me a mirror big enough for whales?

This seems like a scarily limited definition of self-awareness. Elephants seem to have a pretty sensitive sense of touch - and the difference between the texture of another elephant, and the slick glassness of a mirror seems pretty marked. Does the recognition of the difference between these define self-awareness? It defines, I suspect, elephantness and not-elephantness, but a sense of self?

I hope elephants ponder the nature of their being, and trade koans about suffering, the dharma, tonglan. I suspect elephants are buddhists, and ponder on their elephant nature. All religions are the same, especially Buddhism. What about elephanty buddhism?

Then there's the other question of self-awareness. I've been having an elaborate on-going discussion with my favorite sister about the nature of authenticity. It's a sub-topic of Jung and Jungian analysis, and our experience of personas, and the discomfort some people feel if you see their inner self and react to it rather than their persona. If I am being my authentic self, why do people's reaction to me sometimes not match up to how I see myself? Does an elephant ponder it's own shadow?

Perhaps it is that capacity for contentment that makes me discount its importance. Comfort is easy. I've been comfortable at the top of Mt.Rainier, in the middle of many wildernesses, in a tent in the pouring rain. Comfort, like happiness, is overrated.

I don't know how all of these things tie together for you, dear. Today is a series of discrete events, rather than a package I can tie up neatly for you. rain. elephants. self-awareness. club moss. comfort. tea cups.

Welcome back, monsoons.