California Dreaming

I’ve been doing these yoga practices and meditations from Kelly McGonigal’s “Boost Your Willpower” four-week online program, and I find myself thinking of California.

Cowell Ranch Beach near Half Moon Bay, California, on my 30th birthday.
Cowell Ranch Beach near Half Moon Bay, California, on my 30th birthday.

I know that part of this is because it’s cold and snowy here in New England and part of it’s because Kelly was one of my instructors for yoga teacher training when I lived in California, and her voice and image are tied for me with the memory of riding my bike to the California Ave studio where I did my training, yoga mat bungee-corded to my bike rack. I remember the cool of the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks and the anxiety I felt each time, wondering if I could maneuver my bike around the metal bike barriers or if I should walk it around the barriers instead.

When I think about California, I get a sense of home and a sense of hope. I have no idea if these are personal to me or if these are common feelings people have about California.

The home feeling comes from the landscape, from the golden hills against the blue sky, from the dusty eucalyptus smell and the dry air, from the way the rocks meet the coastline. I spent my first ten years in California, and then four and a half years in my mid-20’s to early 30’s. I’ve spent more time in California than I have in any one state; it makes sense that it would feel like home. When I’m gone from there, I miss it. It is so different from the rolling New England countryside. It is so different from anywhere else I’ve been.

The hope feeling is a little tougher to trace. Maybe it’s just the effect of living in a place with so much sun or a place that was founded by people who put all of their possessions into a wagon and headed west in search of fortune or adventure or freedom. Or maybe it’s because the last time we moved there my husband was about to start a postdoctoral fellowship and I had quit my corporate job and was trying to make my way as a doula and yoga instructor. Maybe it’s because that’s where I gave birth to my first child and began my journey as a mother. Whatever it is, I get a sense of possibility when I think of California, a sense that anything can happen there.

I’m not a fan of earthquakes or traffic or yuppies, and the cost of living is just oppressive, but still. To hike through redwoods whenever I want to or to pick citrus fruits and pomegranates and persimmons from the trees in my neighborhood or to be around so many people who are confident that they have the ideas and drive necessary to innovate and change the way people all around the world connect with each other.

It’s taken some time away, but although I can think of lots of reasons to live other places, I remember why so many people can’t imagine living anywhere else.

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