I was out walking the other day, enjoying another of the glorious unseasonably sunny winter afternoons with which we’ve recently been blessed. Meeting one of my St. Helena neighbors, I remarked: “Beautiful day, isn’t it? Can you believe this weather?”

The response I received was fairly typical of the reaction I’ve been hearing around town as one dry, warm winter day blends into another:

“Oh yes, it’s incredible. It’s gorgeous! We’re so lucky. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m getting some exercise and working in the garden and even wearing shorts. In January! Although it’s awfully cold at night. And of course, we really do need some rain. And I have to admit: it has me worried. Why all this sunshine in January, anyway? Is it global warming? I’m so concerned about the birds and the squirrels and the poor polar bears swimming to their melting icebergs. And my plants are terribly confused. My gardenia has buds and I still had tomatoes last week and just as everything blooms the frost will kill it all. Oh no, this can’t be good. I mean, if we don’t have winter now, this probably means that we will have it later, instead of summer, and that will be bad for the grapes and then the tourists won’t come. And all that rain too late in the season will probably make the rivers flood and the levees fail. Or maybe we’ll miss winter altogether and go straight into summer. Oh no, that won’t be good for the grapes and we’ll be overrun by tourists. And there will probably be a drought and the water rates will skyrocket. This weather is just awful, isn’t it? Well, I’m off to the pool … Bye!”

It seems that many Napa Valley residents these days are afflicted with the same strain of temporary weather-related bipolar disorder, and it’s easy to understand why. A handful of sunny days tossed into a wintry season are one thing; a few dry days can be tabulated and measured against prior years without shattering too many records. But the sun, the smells, the blossoms, week after week — it’s positively unnerving. Is it because we are so disillusioned and despairing of the cloudy economic climate that we no longer believe in blue skies? Do we worry that this is some meteorological version of the housing bubble, and that newscasters will soon be “tsk tsk’ing” those of us who foolishly basked in the sunshine without appropriately assessing the climatic consequences?

Or is it that residents of the wine country, which depends upon agriculture for its livelihood, suffer the effects of weather anomalies directly, and accordingly greet a sunny January with the shrewd professional skepticism of farmers who fear that Mother Nature has misplaced her barometer, almanac and 2012 desk calendar?

Perhaps our unhappy reaction to this happy weather simply speaks to the connection between the Napa Valley’s residents and the bountiful and beautiful surroundings. We feel deep affection, mostly, for our wildlife and flowers and trees and vineyards, and live our lives in comfortingly predictable rhythm with the seasons, from the planting to the harvest. Any atmospheric disturbance of that delicate natural harmony is alarming.

By contrast, city dwellers in New York and San Francisco may be surrounded by nature’s splendor, but they tend to discuss weather

mainly in terms of inconvenience. A New York blizzard means the subways won’t run and the taxis won’t come, and rain in San Francisco provides a bone-chilling wind-whipped horizontal drenching that must be endured several times daily for weeks at a time. But in St. Helena, residents remind me that heavy seasonal rain means plenty of water for wine, greet a hard frost with anticipation of better blooming bulbs and lilacs in spring, and view a late summer heat wave as the perfect excuse to drink rosé before 5 p.m.

Of course, I have my own concerns about all this surplus sunshine. It has obviously led to numerous instances of people wearing shorts and t-shirts when their blanched, bristly limbs were clearly unprepared for this level of exposure.

And I have observed the inevitable return of the flip flops and strappy sandals regrettably paired with wool scarves and heavy sweaters, making the wearers look as if they just awoke from a coma, having commenced dressing in June and completing their ensembles in January. But overall I’m grateful for this stolen summer, knowing that true winter will return and depart again, but I will always have the memory of seeing my pale post-holiday-binge body in a bathing suit in December. And that’s what I call unseasonable.

(Laura Rafaty is the owner of PennalunaNapaValley.com, a resident of St. Helena, an attorney and former theatrical producer, and an author and columnist. Read more at laurarafaty.com.)