The thing I love about Portland is, after ten years, it can still surprise me: a shock of blue sky in the middle of rainy December. Truth be told, I’ll run in whatever, but only sun can send out the weekenders with their dogs and bikes and children, and for those 3.5 miles when I’m outside among them, the world feels like the world again. In the house next to the Lotus Preschool, a man comes walking out in full-on Santa garb, real white beard and all. I smile at him, and he smiles at me, then chuckles and says, “Merry Christmas,” as though it would be weird for him not to. “You too,” I say, and mean it, because these days, we have to mean everything that comes out of our mouths. If a woman falls down in a neighborhood forest, and there’s no one there to hear her, does her fall still make a sound? A question I ponder as I bolt down a hill, 35-degree breeze on my face. Truth be told, sun and wind still have my heart, the one remnant of Californian left in me, though I prefer the chill of them in winter than in the dry dead heat of summer. Inflatable snowmen bend on lawns, cutesy bears and penguins bursting with “happy holidays.” In one front yard, otherwise unadorned, stands an old wooden post, topped with an even older looking letterbox. “Believe in the magic of the season,” the sign above it reads, half-rusted so I have to come close to make it out. The thing I hate about New Year’s is the false promise of a fresh beginning, like the turning of a calendar is all it takes for life to right itself. But there is no hope in counting the days, thinking maybe then we’ll get what we want. There is only here, now: a greeting from a stranger, the gift of lovely weather. There is only trying to be the kind of person who can find magic in even this season, drag it outside and say it aloud, and make someone else want to believe it.