I arrived in Napa, California two years ago today: December 1, 2014. It was raining that day and I recall being surprised by the weather. I was expecting there to be blue skies and sunshine since I knew the area was in drought.
The weather continued cool and rainy that first week. The movers unpacking my shipping container of belongings tracked wet leaves across the floors and cautioned me that the paint on the front steps made them slippery. Non-skid throw rugs and treads for the front steps were bumped up my priority purchase list.
The rains eventually abated by the end of the week. They returned a few times, but I enjoyed the mostly blue skies and sun. I savored the crisp air and cool temperatures that left a thin film of frost on my car windows overnight and once or twice led to a frost warning. I could still wear my precious hand-knitted hats, scarfs, and shawls, but didn’t miss the bulk of the thick down coat I had to don in Chicago winters.
Spring arrived in February, with new growth on the deciduous trees and blooming calla lilies in the front yard. The robins appeared in March, and by April I was already regularly wearing short sleeves and capris during my weekly hikes. In late May I was wearing linen and sweating during the day at the local music festival, yet still found it necessary to put on a fleece as the sun went down to combat the evening chill. From May through November I don’t recall any rain at all, but then the winter rains started again and the cycle was complete.
I’ve found that the seasons here are the same as back in Chicago, but they are on an accelerated schedule and there is no snow to shovel. The climate suits me, and my skin doesn’t dry up like it used to every winter in Chicago.
I love Northern California and am glad I moved here. Every single time my gaze falls on the high hills framing the valley, I smile and sigh with pleasure. Despite the health challenges that cropped up within just a few months of my arrival, I am happy in this place. But I am also frequently lonely.
It takes time to make friends as an adult. Friendships were easier while in high school and college, when everyone was moving through similar milestones. It seems that I am out of sync with the vast majority of people in this small town at the edge of the sprawling Bay Area. Most of the women I meet are wives and mothers, and their schedules revolve around their children and husbands. They may be able to meet once a week for knitting or the occasional game night, but they aren’t available on the weekends.
If I lived closer to San Francisco there would be many more single professional women my age and I would have a livelier social life on the weekends. I figured this out before I bought a house here and settled in more deeply. Despite the social challenges, I still chose to stay because I enjoy the other privileges that come with the lower density: quiet, lack of heavy traffic, shorter lines for services, quick access to large swathes of open space, and breath-taking natural beauty.
Two years in I’m still loving Napa. May the honeymoon never end.