Winter is a season of many surprises

by Janice Hoffmann

Nowadays, winter is the season of surprises in Southern California. Fire season far exceeds his welcome, not that he ever had one, appearing well into December. Rainy season shortens her appearance by weeks if not months. Like a surly teenager, you never know she is gone for good until she just stops showing up. Seasons, once blurred, are now downright obfuscated.

Their wicked cousin came to town this week: Wind, pronoun preference plural so let’s say Winds. These were the hurricane cousins of the Santa Anas, pushing 70 mph. These were the progeny of bigger bullies, the tornadoes that send children under their desks at school or into the culvert if they are driving between town and the farm, or into their basement if, thank God, they are lucky enough to be at home

For 42 years, I’ve lived in the “City of Trees and PhDs.” Our pioneers planted trees way back when, and also founded a college. Now we live in an urban forest and have multiple jewels in the educational laureate that crowns Claremont. Yes, the town is blissfully littered with trees as well as educational institutions, the Oxford plan meets technology, and now Claremont boasts the best of traditional as well as innovative avenues to education, training grounds for societal contributors. I think it is eight at last count, but we were talking about trees.

This week, in the City of Trees and PhDs, our friends were severely assaulted, and we are in mourning. By we I mean those who live here or enjoy passing through, those who have gone to school here, or just stopped by for a taping of “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me” at Big Bridges or a night out for dinner and a show at the Candlelight Pavilion. I mean those who have driven here in their vintage cars to enjoy our Route 66 location, those who have enjoyed the campuses, the Village, the historic train depot that houses the Claremont Art Museum, the California Botanic Garden, Claremont Heritage in Memorial Park, and those over the years who have frequented Walters, Some Crust, Aromatique, Vom Fass, and so many iconic favorites, landmark shops and places to eat, past and present, establishments traditional and cutting-edge. We are all in mourning, because the trees that were planted by our pioneers are no longer with us. We have all been in this pandemic together, so it’s not as though we are strangers to adversity, but we would rather not have added this to our list.

Since the morning of January 22, we have seen damage, devastation and death of old friends, but thank goodness, no loss of human life. We have seen miles of yellow and black caution tape cordoning off ubiquitous crime scenes, as if Winds will be brought to trial and we will have a sense of justice. This week has largely been spent cleaning out the space that was previously occupied by the living and doing post mortems, some on eucalyptus so old and large that perhaps they finally tired and welcomed death, who knows.

I would like to think that TBLO, “the big live oak” in Memorial Park, fought like hell and raged against the night. I know a manzanita at High Point that did not go gently, its root ball at a right angle, almost as wide as its height once was. The Canary pines on north Mountain Avenue gave up a large percentage of their girth to the winds, but most, if not all, backbones remain intact. Their counterparts in “Old Claremont” did not take their demise well, grabbing for dear life onto the Southern California Edison lines, not caring that their acts of desperation deprived others of power and put them in fire danger. The Winds were capricious, randomly selecting saplings and juveniles, the immature as well as the mature, those that could have had long futures in front of them, as well as those that had lived long, meaningful lives, so perhaps we shouldn’t concentrate on the elderly, I would never call it pining in any case.

Everywhere one looks there is a lack of greenspace canopies, years of stability, predictability, comfort, shade, limbs for swings, berths for birdhouses, nooks for squirrels. A lot is just gone. I wish we could set up replacement oxygen stations for people, as if the energy we get from our trees is as easy to replace as charging our electric cars.

Visitation is almost finished, the remains are being handled, and now for the wake, the funeral, more memorial tributes.


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