The air feels like a bolster, that’s the only way I can think to describe it– everywhere against me, clinging like dew on a leaf, and comforting, coating my winter legs with misty gloss, my hair with frizz. And the air feels alive, full of elements I can’t see and have no name for, but prove their truth in palpable balm.
With fingers open, palms outstretched, I sit in the backyard of my girlhood home, in a little patch of sunshine that seems to have my name emblazoned on its rays. I watch my baby putter around the azeala and pause to point at a hummingbird. And then another. And then a blue jay. And then a condor. My eyes track the Eden up and down: grass, lofty redwood, deck, japanese maple, bluestar creeper, fig. The breeze picks up, the chimes bellow single tones of quivering alto. I am home. I am home. I am home.
The rolling foothills have swapped their gold for green, and vast meadows of their space– like unruly shag capeting– are covered in cattails and buttery mustard flowers that my children run through and roll in. The oak trees that punctuate en copse, are massive, serpentine forms that reach against a sky colored with the gentleness of a waning sun, and backlit, the branches are black, each cluster of leaves a luminous overlay of lace. When I look beyond them, up the hills, I see dirt roads and single track paths– things I can’t see the end of, things that seem to lead nowhere I know yet, but somewhere.
Somewhere begging discovery.
Somewhere between that moment and the evening, I form a theory in my mind for a truth my heart has always known. My story has no possibility of unfolding without first finding a proper setting, and like any simple girl mired-in and drawn-to the temperate valleys of the west, my story belongs in California.
After dinner and before bed, we walk a footpath along a hill, dotted with historical plaques. I stop to read them while my dad follows the children through the tall grasses– cattails and mustard flowers– and am taken by the images of the first Californios who settled the homestead that becomes today a barn, a field, a hidden spring flanked in boardwalks, an impression against a backdrop.
“It’s strange,” I say to my dad, “To think of how old this place is, how its history goes so far back.”
He pauses, glancing at a hyper child, and says without even looking at me, “And how you’re part of its history too.”
My senses bloom in the place of my origin. I bloom. I am overtaken by a keen awareness to its details and what meaning I give those details: my sensory perception like the ragged tips of exposed nerve endings– all minutiae are large, loud, neon textures that become so obvious and fraught with meaning, that they cease to be details and coalesce into a single character. A single place. Where the story will happen.
Even if that story is just a walk before bedtime. Or yellow cake enjoyed on the patio.
Would the walk have been the same without the aged live oaks? Would the felted worn brick against my bare foot have more importance than the cake? Probably not. But it wouldn’t be or taste or seem the same without it.
Where is your place?
Where do you feel more alive, or like a better version of yourself?
Do you have a place that inspires you? A place you go back to? A place you escape to?