This time two weeks ago I was laying on a beach in sunny California, did you know that? It seems an especially cruel memory now, bathed as I am in artificial light from my computer with only a glimpse of sky outside the office window. To add insult to injury, it’s actually a beautiful day here so the aforementioned sky is spectacularly blue. To add even more insult to injury, I thought for a minute there today was Friday. A double-edged sword: I’m slightly cheered—actually this time two weeks ago I was sitting at my desk. But now I’m faced with the realization that I tomorrow I’ll be here too, instead of enjoying a Saturday like I originally thought. Some days I really do have to curse this rotten brain. Oh well. I like the work that I get to do, and they pay me, and as a result I get to take trips to sunny southern California. So really I can’t complain too much. But I will admit I love a good hot beach, so when I was there it was difficult to imagine why I would live anywhere else. The sun! I would think. The palm trees! The blinding, engulfing, overwhelming light! The laid-back people! The possibilities! What, I wondered, could I make life be like in California? Who would I meet? What neighborhood would I discover? I’ve found lately that I can’t quite reconcile myself to the fact that I may be done living anywhere but Portland, and though this may be exacerbated by the sun and palm trees and wide boulevards, it’s a thought I’m giving some consideration to. I’ll quote the age-old refrain of someone just about to make a terrible decision—well, why not?
Kyle, the cousin we visited, promised us sunny San Diego wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. He said this, though, while we were at Sea World, so we weren’t really paying attention. Dolphins are hilarious, in case anyone was wondering, and I think are definitely the dogs of the ocean. We found a quiet spot to watch them play with their trainers while we were there, and at one point, I swear it was Dexter in sea creature form. They too had the singularly adoring stare that characterizes all idol worship that Dexter adopts every time Dad walks in the room. The trainer was talking to someone, but every so often she would flick her foot into the shallows and splash the dolphin, and the dolphin would then splash water back. It was great. We stood for a long time watching them swim and play, the sun and water glittering off their skin as they effortlessly moved back and forth in the water.
We saw a beluga whale, and a handful of Orcas, that were equally mesmerizing but wildly different. They were all solid, concentrated movement though still fluid, as if a part of water itself. No land-bound creature moves that way, I don’t think. We can’t meld with their environment quite as wholly. The liquid cougar is the closest I’ve ever seen, but even he was an entity separate from his surroundings in a way that sea creatures aren’t. I dream a lot about whales. Nothing happens really, in the dream, except I see whales swimming in tandem, a la Mickey’s Fantasia. But that’s my most frequent dream, which helped contribute to the surreal feeling that accompanied me on our SeaWorld excursion.
I really have been lucky in the cousin realm, and now we’re old enough to choose to see each other, which has been an unexpectedly delightful consequence of aging. So it was fun to be in this new place with a very old friend who we saw completely of our own volition. We also were really excited to go to San Diego, but that’s neither here nor there. So we laughed and ate a lot, and drank and talked about our families, and our friends, and made fun of each other. Fun was had by all. We went to the beach, and walked down the pier and watched the ocean crash on all sides of us, and watched the light change from too bright to dark and mellow. We went to dangerously glamorous bars, one of which was underground and hidden, and whose praises I can’t stop singing. We learned the ropes of Kyle’s hulking and lonely ship. We went to the beach again and watched the water stretch away from us into bright blue nothing. I loved it.
But now I’m here. I’m here, and I love it here too. The quality of light has changed into fall, and the trees are bursting into flame right before our eyes. The cool and crisp, all the things I forgot I loved, are back in my head again. I see and feel a whole world I had almost forgotten. I smell autumn at every turn, and moments like that make me pause—why would I ever leave here again, I wonder.
Fast forward about three weeks into the rain and I’d be happy to tell you why. But for now, I am all too happy to leave that bright white light of the sun to California while we’re enjoying this season as much as we can.