We are spending some time in Southern California, slipping in and out of the Inland Empire — that oft-maligned territory between the mountains and the sea.
Often hot and smoggy, is the IE. Crisscrossed by clotted freeways burdened by folks who insist on owning a home where they can afford it and commuting to work. (The gall!)
It is a place often criticized by those who know least about it and rarely given credit for its positives — housing, growth and, at times, incredible beauty.
All it takes?
Just add water.
A series of rainstorms have soaked SoCal in recent weeks, and the precipitation almost instantly greened up the IE as far as the eye can see.
The hills and mountains that form the backdrop to nearly every vista … often are a dead brown, during the height of summer, and when drought grips the region, as it had in recent years.
But when they are spritzed by an inch of rain, residents need only look up and admire the verdant scenery where formerly dead bushes and rocks made for dismal viewing.
For much of two weeks, the IE has been a treasure. Paradise. Eden.
Green hills and mountains, the tallest of them crowned with a layer of snow.
Air crisp and clean, almost sparkling.
It is idyllic. And a reminder that much of what is considered “wrong” with the Inland Empire is not of its doing.
Much of the smog in the region blows in with prevailing winds from Los Angeles County. Many of the people roll in from L.A. and Orange County, priced out of the housing markets there.
But none of that matters when a storm blows through with newly minted air and the Inland Empire is scrubbed and shined and decorated by nature.