At least one reader objected to my lampooning of the fine state of California, which I really do love and appreciate (or I wouldn’t be choosing to vacation here as opposed to any number of places in Hawaii which could be equally conducive to creativity). And, I WAS born in California. In fact, the retreat I’m on is in the house I was born in untold years ago—a beautifully restored tidy little 1920s bungalow, the kind with the poured-cement walkway and wrought iron railings on a scrap of lawn, usually surrounded by marigolds or roses. No mansions in this respectable neighborhood where everyone cares for their yards and cleans up their dog poo and helps each other bring in the mail.
I’m staying with an aunt and uncle who own the cottage and live in the front house, and I mentioned renting a bike to get around town a little easier. Lo and behold, this morning when I opened the door a shiny beach bike with a fat bouncy seat and high handlebars awaited me, with a note giving the combination of the lock. I couldn’t help a squeal of joy and a little jig—I seriously haven’t had that Christmas-morning-type feeling in… well. Years. A lotta years. Too many years. I felt five again, with pure excitement making me as clumsy as if it was my first time on a two-wheeler.
I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years. Seriously. I wished I had a helmet as I wobbled into the street, seat too low so my ageing knees protested and realizing on a hill, that there was only one gear. But I soon got the hang again, and to use a hackneyed cliché, just like riding a bike it all came back to me.
I went all over town, taking pictures with my tourist camera of whatever caught my eye, like the old dude reading Tolstoy in the grass hut on the bluffs , and a mysteriously fuzzy weiner dog who insisted on dragging her owner over to sniff my leg, and a particularly amazing rose garden. I sat above the ocean and took phone videos of the surfers and the line of soaring pelicans cruising just above the water for The Hubby, so he could see what he was missing.
And just like in my Hawaiian pineapple field that magic day some weeks ago (/2010/08/16/a-charm-against-suicide/), a profound well-being filled me to be here, in this place and moment, doing something I love and passing for merely eccentric as I pedal along on my oversized kiddie bike, on vacation in the town I was born in, in the little house I lived in as an infant.
I am wondrously moved by California, its contained and stunning wildness, its generous fun-loving people, its cornucopia of every kind of delight. I could live here quite happily—as long as I could keep wearing rubber slippers, which I see a lot of people doing. There’s room for all kinds in California, and that’s another beauty of the place: acceptance and a live-and-let-live attitude.
So apologies California, I'll focus more on the raspberries and less on the Botox… because you deserve that and more.