One of the best things about living in Northern California is the temperate weather. The weather, on average over the entire year, is pleasing to the senses and food for creativity. If there are a few rainy and bleak days over the winter, the sun compensates by coming out for a while to raise the spirits of Californians. If there is a heat wave in the summer that causes people to crank up their air conditioners, clouds take over the sky right after, a wind starts somewhere near the ground and blows upwards, cool, crisp, dancing serenely over the skin. The weather in this part of the world seems to apologize for being temperamental for a few days, and its apology is poetic, lyrical, epic, astounding. 

Recently, we were hit by a fierce heat wave. My air conditioner was running without a break for a week. The sun seemed to pierce the skin, so sharp was the heat hitting our bodies. In Pakistan, temperatures are much worse, humidity is high, but the heat is not dry and pinching like it is here. Maybe it is the thick blanket of smog and dust that makes the heat suffocate you in Lahore. The thick sweltering July air forms a bubble around you. It doesn't needle you; it goes for the kill; it smothers. By contrast, during the heat wave in the Bay Area, the sun stood like a traced full-moon in the painting of a child. Its rays, jagged-toothed and razor-sharp, made our skin prickle. Even those of us who have recently arrived from the murderous 50 degree Celsius days of Lahori summers chose to stay indoors and rest. 

And then in the magical, appeasing way of Northern California weather, a wonderful thing happened. The sun decided to take a day off, clouds gathered on the horizon, people once again left their homes in the late hours of the afternoon, and I could see them zipping along the jogging trail on the hill I live on as I drove home from work, contemplating the pleasant change in weather and the stark tan on my left arm with a narrow strip of skin a distinctly lighter shade of brown, marking the placement of my watch. In the evening, the wind picked up. It seemed to be born out of the tall bushes along the uncultivated land behind our housing community. The weeds rustled and swayed and the wind continued to gather momentum until it climbed up our legs, swirled around our waists like a dance partner's arm, flew into our faces, our eyes, our mouths, and whipped our hair every which way. It came in, cool and unbound, through the open windows of my house, flickered the flame on the stove, kissed the petals of my orchids on the window-sill, twirled the basil leaves in a lazy pirouette.

My sisters-in-law, one nursing her eczema exacerbated by the intense heat and other other nursing heat-induced lethargy, perked all of a sudden and began to walk from one room to another. "It's like Murree," they exclaimed, thinking of the beloved hill-station of our childhood vacations in northern Punjab. Night had fallen and we decided to welcome the pleasantly surprising weather by going outside. They grabbed their sweaters and I pulled on a winter coat over my pajamas. We looked funny and old and young at the same time. Three women walking around a fountain - the work of a genius landscape artist. The wind slapped us relentlessly, but we were gleeful like small children in a surprise downpour. It was a moment in which I felt completely connected to them. We could just as easily have been teenagers devoid of all adult responsibilities. There was something meaningful in this unplanned, unorchestrated togetherness, the wind continuing to pick up force as we talked about nothing in particular. I can't even remember what we said to each other; I only recall that moment of perfect tranquility, three sisters, out in the elements, together, satisfied, happy. There was a little bit of magic that kindled and caught fire, even if it was felt only by me. It was not just the weather's apology, but mine, too, for being immersed in work and circumstances and motherhood so completely that our one moment of perfect understanding happened on a green metal bench near a fountain in my neighborhood, a celebrated silence over the roar of high winds. 

We laughed and shivered and laughed some more over things that were not really funny. One of them suggested a quick trip back to the house to make three cups of coffee or peppermint tea or something that sounded equally welcoming before returning to the fountain to talk some more. We headed back to the house and I put the kettle on. One of my sisters ran to her room, the other opened up her email. The kettle didn't whistle for a long time. We sat in silence, each once again absorbed into her own world, swimming through the things that mattered only to her. I prepared our cups. "Shall we go?" I asked. But we all hesitated. It seemed too difficult all of a sudden to go outside with our cups full to the brim of welcoming and rejuvenating hot drinks. The moment, the magic of it, the harmony, the marriage of elements that brought out the feeling of a perfect understanding between us, was gone. We settled into the sofa instead, one sister on either side of me, and talked again about meaningless and meaningful things.

On some low level of consciousness, I observed that we had a moment, or at least I perceived that we experienced something extraordinary by that fountain, a connection, an understanding, something harmonious that brought us together, and that it was gone now. But not completely. Whatever I felt out there in the wind was an extension of our relationship, and its passing was to be rejoiced, not mourned. We are struggling in our own personal journeys, finding meaning in our lives, defining what comes next in our individual destinies. We often forget to celebrate the love we have for each other, and sadly, take it for granted. That instant, out there by the small lit-up fountain in the fierce wind, was a reminder to me of what we are to each other, how our shared childhood has forged a bond so deep inside us that it becomes apparent at most unexpected of times. Much like the elemental forces in this place I call home now, these reminders have a way of surprising me.