Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Deep Thoughts - The (Concrete) World at my Feet

I spend a lot of time looking at my feet. As I walk, that is. I spend a lot of time looking at my feet and in so doing have ample opportunity to notice how substandard the scenery is at foot level. Looking straight ahead does not provide much relief. The only thing I’m surrounded by on my walk home is a major street and traffic. The standard is, of course, what I would see at my feet if I were at home in Portland. (My brain conveniently forgets that if I were walking along Sandy Blvd. right by my childhood home, it would be similar to what I see here. The sights, the sounds, and even the smells would be similar.)
My feet. And the sidewalk.
When I hear or read people gush over California, I bitterly scrunch up my face and wonder what they could possibly see that I don’t. Where are they finding the beauty amid the never-ending sea of cars, car noise, pavement, lanes upon lanes of boulevard and freeway, strip malls, and chain restaurants? (This refers to Orange County, outside of the beach cities.) Maybe they aren’t spending time here HERE. But wait, they have to drive through this mess from airports and transportation hubs to get to the beauty and the glory that is the California coast. Aren’t they seeing this? Perhaps not. Perhaps their eyes are fixed on the brilliant blue sky above their heads rather than looking down at their feet, or worse, straight ahead.
To try to see what they see, I stopped looking at my feet for a moment.  I looked out and up, beyond eye level, to the sky. I was reminded of how much beauty I used to see in California. When I visited as a little girl and when I first moved here as an undergrad, every color was vivid – the blue of the sky, the green of the palms, the terra cotta color of the townhome rooftops, all of it. I took a moment on my walk home to look at the sky, and the trees, and I lingered alongside the train tracks which were blocking the major road below.
My favorite view on my walk home
And then I got to the bottom of the hill and hated everything again. I romanticize returning to the Pacific Northwest constantly, and my sister is quick to remind me how she wishes she could leave, escape the constant dark, gray quality of late fall, winter, and most of spring. Then, just as quickly I remind her that although there is plenty of light here, most of my vistas are gray filled as well. Only for me, it’s concrete and pavement with a blur of rushing metal everywhere I look.
The view for the rest of my walk, and the street I live on.
I wish I could figure out a way to walk while looking to the sky but without falling down or running into things. I’d need to figure out how to drive this way as well. If I could do that, then I could rediscover whatever it is about California that brought me here in the first place. There are many people in this state enjoying its near perfect climate and natural resources every weekend, every day even! I am not one of those people, but I think I should try to change that.

I would like to enjoy this. Who wants to move to Malibu?
It makes my heart a little heavy to think about how slim the chance is that I will ever leave this place. Despite the perfect weather, and even if I embrace and take advantage of all it offers, I will never be in love with California, much less Orange County. But if I am here to stay, I just hope one day we can find a city, neighborhood, or even little tiny pocket of space that feels like home.
In other news, a man in my complex swims in a full body wetsuit. Just thought you should know.

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