Would I Like California?

A friend of mine asked me this question today.

My answer was yes. It was also far more condensed than it might have been had we been speaking face to face. And I’ll tell you why.

Because every day I wake up and get my first look out the window, I fall in love with California all over again.

I wasn’t born and raised here, technically. I’ve lived here for a third of my life. But I can say, without question, that that third has always been my favorite third.

So when someone asks me if they would like California, what I want to do is sit them down and tell them everything. I want to tell them how the Pacific Coast Highway looks at sunset and how the redwoods look at dawn. I want to tell them how our summer days are hot, but the nights drop to sixty. How in the middle of July, you can sit on the beaches of Northern California under the stars wrapped in a blanket in front of a bonfire and still feel a chill. How our avenues are lined with palm trees and the streets of San Francisco are lined with architectural rainbows and  palettes of people. How I still smile when I see a trolley. That enveloping sense of pride I get when the frame of the Golden Gate Bridge begins to emerge from the distant fog, a symbolic arm stretching out its hand to escort me in to the city.

I think of Apple Hill in Placerville and the drives I took in the fall with my mother for apple wine and butter, and the trips to Tahoe for the weekend so we could go to “the snow”, and how everyone calls going to Tahoe “going to the snow”. I think of the Santa Cruz boardwalk and the Santa Monica Pier and those tiny towns that dot the northern coast, like Ferndale in its perpetual state of Christmas and Solvang in all its authentic Danish glory.

I think of those things and I marvel at how lucky I am to live in what I’m pretty sure, after 30 years of traveling and seeing damn near every state, is the most breathtaking place in the country.

It’s more than just my history here, the fact that this is where I kissed my first boy, made the friends I still have today, became the person I am now. Those aren’t what I thought of when I was 1500 miles away and missing home. What I thought of was the sense of belonging I felt, the peace that filled me when I stood in a ray of California sunshine. We have our crazies, we have our hippies, we have our gun-hating, overly-PC idiots. Totally. But what I see most here is love. People love living here. And they love other people. We are offended by injustice, we are disgusted by inequality. We snub bigotry and promote acceptance. We love. The people, I’ve found, are as magnificent as the scenery.

So would you like California? I don’t know. But for me, this place is home, and there is nowhere else I’d rather be.