In Northern California where I live, the hills are green and wet, and the morning fog is smoky and dense.
On Highway 116 the longhorn cattle no longer push up close to the road to nuzzle the blackberry bushes.
The zebra that startle the tourists have gone up to their warm barn.
The man who sells rainbow flags and windsocks has left town.
The woman who sells Tamales by the side of the road has closed up for the rainy season
Half a dozen businesses have closed while the child services center is crowded with pinched faces.
At the grocery store I watch a woman run her finger along the price tags on bags of rice and macaroni.
"What are you working on?" a friend asks me.
"My sense of humor," I tell her. She laughs.
Then we chip in to buy a case of tuna fish for the woman with one bag of rice and two of macaroni.
"I am hoping for an early spring," my friend says in the parking lot.
I look around at the fog-shrouded trees and the clump of teenagers huddled in the shelter of the bus stop.
There are men waiting for work across the highway.
A family seems to be living in a camper truck down from the post office.
"I'm just hoping," I say.
"Hope is good." My friend tucks her fingers in her coat pockets.
She follows my glance across the street to the girl who is kicking the sign in front of the gas station.
It reads, No Credit - No Way.
"What was that line you used to quote? Hope is the thing with feathers?"
"Emily Dickinson," I tell her.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all...
"Yeah," my friend says. Her breath is another stream of fog in the air.
"Until things perk up, I am going to be reading a lot of Emily Dickinson."