This Light

[Abbotts Lagoon, January 2013.]

Northern California this week is making the hard sell for me to stay – at least that’s what it seems like. Sun all the day long and clear nights and it’s cold, sure, but I don’t mind since I’m apparently baking all the time and the oven warms up my apartment and the sun comes in anyhow and I wrap a blanket around my shoulders as I edit recipes and wear wool socks when I’m not out running and it works alright.

Stay, California is telling me. You know you want to.

And I do. I do I do I do I do want to. It shouldn’t be a surprise. I love this place: the Pacific is the only ocean I care about – though the Mediterranean is a close second of clear water and schools of silvery fish – the Sierras the only mountains I wish to press my face against, the back roads the only ones I wish to run, the trails near the coast the only ones I want to plant my feet upon, the coffee roasted here the only coffee I want to drink.

[Looking north, January 2013.]

How do you feel about moving? I get asked a lot. The simple answer is: I am getting excited! I am a little nervous but it will be OK! I am enjoying this time now but will enjoy when we go! (Honestly, I should just stick with this response. It’s quite easy and doesn’t allow for a lot of introspection (which believe me, I got in spades, dude.)) Last weekend I went for a walk out at Abbotts Lagoon with Randy and Logan and we chatted about this and that as we are wont to do and I shared a bit of my anxiety about leaving; as we walked back down the beach to the path, Randy put his arm around me and cheered me along: It will be a great adventure! he said. It will be hard, but you will learn a lot. We will visit! And you will come back. (I’m paraphrasing, clearly, but) I appreciated that bit of kindness because I know he knows I am not super psyched to move and I am grateful I can be real about it all and not feel like I must put on a good face.

One of the hardest things is nice people saying that it will be good for me live away from California – as if I haven’t done so before, as if they have forgotten I did (or maybe they didn’t know in the first place), or it doesn’t matter that I have a pretty awesome life here right now that I have fashioned for myself and that I am so loathe to leave. (I am leaving new babies and sweet dogs and my mom and dad and good friends and Bodega Bay and Arch Rock and good Clover butter and milk and Ron the egg man and Richard from Firme Farms and Kareem at Green Earth (though actually they are pretty excited DW is going to get to speak Arabic every day) and proximity to the airport and oh yeah, my childhood home, and and and) if that gives you any idea.) Like: being away will make me appreciate Northern California more and such. There is a point in that; you don’t always fully appreciate a place until you leave. But – I did leave. I left for nine years. I traveled a lot and I lived a busy and full life and I have no regrets that I lived Away. But. I missed California every day. I missed my family and my home. I was deeply homesick even as I had such a great life in DC. Every time I came home something tugged at me. It ached to go back there. I appreciated. Oh yes. I did. Once a Californian always a Californian is what I say. I think it is bred into the blood and bones and sinew of us and can never be extricated.

[Up the road, Inverness, January 2013.]

And yet. I am leaving/must leave/will leave. This is where my path is taking me and I must gin up my courage and my pluck and take a deep breath and get on with it. I still have seven months or so but already am waxing nostalgic. Another fault of mine: I tend to romanticize things before they are finished. Case in point: my lovely, large, sunny apartment – oh, my home! How hard to pry myself out of it! And yet I must remember: it’s freezing; the oven is the tiniest; the bathroom sink has been draining super slow for months; there are two washers/dryers for the whole building; the paint is peeling; the kitchen is so small. So yeah. It would behoove me to be a bit more pragmatic.

Still – I will probably be a bit morose/melancholic from time to time and I hope, friends, that you will allow it. Dang it, it’s my silly blog and if not here, where?!

[Abbotts Lagoon, January 2013.]

The signs are there: I’m listening to Kate Rusby a lot. I’m running as much as possible. Drinking countless cups of tea. Plotting trips up to Sebastopol. Grabbing as much friend time as possible. Thinking about trips East to see friends and family ‘before’. Mentally discarding things from our apartment and dreading the inevitable packing. Wondering if I could just move in to my parents’ back room and sort of ‘forget’ to make the plane this summer. Oh, woe.

I wrote this almost 10 (!) years ago about California when I lived in DC and nothing really has changed: when i’m here, i feel different than i do in my adopted city. that life feels so removed and far away. sometimes i think i could close up my little apartment and leave it and that life, to walk off into the sun shining off the sea, the cliffs, the trees, and let it do what it may. there is little i would miss, except people, and that closeness is determined not by geography, but by perserverance. and i am dogged in my loves. i do not relinquish them easily. And one of the things i miss most about home is the way the air smells. some mornings you can catch the salt-scent drifting through the fog. other afternoons it is grass and rich earth. in other spots, it is bay leaves and river water, redwood bark pulled from the trees. the air is fresh and cool, quickening in early evening, when the blue night comes down. fall is lovely there. the maple turns yellow and the hills are still golden and the dust is not as hot as in july, and snow begins to accumlate on the distant mountains.

So you see I am not fooling around about this stuff. I am serious. I donwanna. I want to plant my feet and dig in.

[From the Estero Trail, December 2012.]

And so now I guess I will swing it around and remind myself that I will not relinquish here. This good earth and the trees that have grown for a hundred years or more and this grey-green sea will pulse on until I can come home to see them again. Oh life, let you be long that I can go off for a bit and still have this to come back to. It is my greatest wish today. After all, it’s not like I am going alone. I am going with my love who is a Californian like me; it is always the plan we will live here again for always. It’s just for a bit. (I have decided to be like Shirley, Anne Shirley-Blythe’s son, who, when he had to go off to WWI looked at it with a cool detached air of dealing with dirty work that must be attended to – even though I am probably at heart more like Walter with his white-hot emotion about it all, I will strive to be more businesslike and try to not be too terribly self-indulgent. After all: I will learn to surf the Atlantic. I will probably have a dog and hopefully also a kid. My mom and dad will visit. I will finally learn and speak French and hopefully a bit of Arabic too. So.)

Also my greatest wish is that you file this recipe away – as a reward for all that self-indulgent blather, a delicious dinner via the kitchn for a vegetarian shepard’s pie with sweet potatoes that is perfect for these chilly winter nights. I made it basically as-is but added about a cup of frozen peas and two generous teaspoons of marmite, if you’re into that sort of thing (thought please note: avoid if you are gluten-free and use gluten-free oats and tamari to be safe). It gives it a certain je ne sais quois and an extra depth. But I know it would be just as good without.

via thekitchn

In the meantime: good grief, it’s not like I’m the first person ever to move away from her home-place. Let’s focus rather on this light. Oh, ’tis the most beautiful. I will share it with you up until my last day here. (Please keep in touch.)

[Armstrong Woods, December 2012.]

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task 5
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast, 10
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

~ Keats

Join the Conversation

  1. ah geez. this gave me a big ol lump in my throat. also i want to “like” helen’s comment. you *will* be stronger for leaving, and you *will* appreciate your forever home even more upon your return. you are a trooper. all will be well. lots of love from bmore xoxo

  2. Where are you moving to?
    In my decision making, I always say, if its not right it’s wrong….

  3. Tears! Beautiful post……no one will forget you, only want you more. California will miss your essence and soulful renderings. You will return and it will be blissful.

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