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10 Years in California

redwoodsWhen I was a little girl in Massachusetts, I often played in the woods with my neighborhood friends, climbing over moss-covered stones in the cool, damp understory to collect earthy trinkets and play adventure games. The boys loved whooping and hollering among the trees, taking refuge in the dim light when the hot summer sun had been beating on our backs all afternoon.

But I was always anxious to clamor back into the light.

My favorite spot was in The Field, 99 acres of wide open spaces and rolling hills across the street from my house. I’d climb to the crest of the highest peak and look out over the town, watching the sun set behind a purple-tinted Mt. Wachusett. There, I was content. There, I was free.

In New York City, I was back in the woods. Adventure happened left and right among the tall skyscrapers that blocked out the sun. It was a glorious nine years in the prime of my young life, full of possibility, full of energy, full of culture, full of people—but I was never quite content.

Exactly 10 years ago today, I moved to California “temporarily.” I leased a small bedroom from near strangers (who have now become two of my best friends). My goal was to work on my dance books while establishing myself as a freelance writer who could tackle more mainstream topics—and I did so by working as a stringer for a few local newspapers.

Of course, I didn’t need to move to the west coast to do that. But I fell in love with a man from California and I figured it couldn’t hurt to experience his world for a little while before we settled back down in the east.

Ten years later, that temporary arrangement has become decidedly permanent. I knew very shortly after I met Alex that I loved him. And I knew very shortly after I came to California—with its wide open spaces and rolling hills and endless ocean views stretching beyond the horizon, and bare, numerous mountains that look like the scruff of a Shar-Pei—that I loved it here too.

beachIt didn’t hurt that my first few years of living in California were in the quaint and dreamy seaside town of Monterey, where I lunched on calamari and clam chowder while listening to sea lions bark their orders (instead of bosses). Big Sur was just a hop, skip, and a treacherously winding cliffside drive away. I strolled though local art galleries in Carmel, watched surfers compete for wave space with the whales in Santa Cruz, took a mud bath in the hot springs outside of Yosemite, and sipped wine in caves, farmhouse wineries, hilltop vineyards, barrel rooms, and cellars from Paso Robles to Napa Valley.

I toured castles, huffed and puffed my way up steep city sidewalks, got drunk at an aquarium and spoke in a Jamaican accent to a sunfish, went to grad school, bought a home, had a baby, bought a second home, got lost in a corn maze, adopted a kitten, hiked across freezing creeks, up redwood-strewn trails, and down into hidden beach coves. I made friends, lost friends, lost babies, and gained a whole new family.

Now I live in Gilroy and work in Silicon Valley, where I’m challenged every day but I’m not burning out, and my future is full of wide open spaces and rolling hills, where I walk hand-in-hand with my husband and son in a place where I’m content, a place where I’m free, a place in the light.

A place I now, 10 years later, can finally call home.

wide open field

 

An Ode to Fall in New England

This morning when I stepped outside, there was a brisk quality to the air that was not there yesterday. I wore flats with no socks, and as a cool breeze wafted over the tops of my feet, I realized…oh yeah, it’s fall.

Fall in California is fairly unremarkable. The shift from summer is practically imperceptible. It’s a few degrees cooler and you can order pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. In late fall we may see some rain. That’s about it.

fall in California
Fall in California looks like…every other day in California.

But fall in New England…Oh! Fall in New England. It’s pure magic. You can actually smell the change of seasons—one day it’s warm honeysuckle, the next, a faint wisp of chestnut and hickory. It begins with one tree timidly showing its colors in early September. By the end of the month, the rest have followed, bursting with brilliant fiery reds, tangerine oranges, and mustard yellows.

fall in new england

The apples in the orchards are ripe and ready for picking. Hay rides, bales of golden delicious, warm apple cider with a dash of cinnamon. A good thick scarf to wrap around your nose, which is just starting to become slightly tender with the cold. Apple pies. Pumpkins. Your mom breaks out the seasonal decor, filling the mantle with gourds and corn varietals and folksy-looking scarecrows.

By mid-October, the yard is littered with fallen leaves that crunch under your feet. As a child, I would rake up a huge pile next to a tree, climb up, and leap into the leaves with total abandon. As I emerged from the pile, now flattened and scattered, I’d giggle as I pulled twigs out of my hair,  racing to rake the leaves into a heap once more.

But soon, all too soon, the coolness turns cold. Cozy light sweaters and pea coats must be traded for multiple layers of bulk; mittens and hats to be worn at all times. The trees become barren, their lonely branches reaching up helplessly into the dimly-lit skies. The ground hardens and becomes unyielding. And then…the endless winter.

I miss fall in New England down to my very own apple core. But I do not miss what follows. So enjoy your bright leaves and hot cocoa with marshmallows now, New Englanders! Because pretty soon, you’ll be looking at this:

winter in new england

While it’ll still be this for me:

fall in California