He and I walked under a hot sun, and I talked about the seasons where I grew up. There is no need for air conditioning in Petaluma, I bragged as we sweat uphill.
Hot summer days were spent in water, under a tree with a book, perched up in a tree with a book, or just waiting — and not for long — for the rolling ocean breeze that naturally cooled the air. Doors and windows were open all day. Evenings required layers, and hot summer nights were a thing from television.
Except for an occasional funeral or family reunion, we did not travel much. And by my 10-year-old estimation, there was no need for it. The beach and the City were close enough. As a kid in Petaluma it was your duty to complain about how boring it was there. But I secretly never wanted to leave. I loved being home, and was content to staying put.
It wasn’t until I moved to the arid mountain west and then the east coast that I felt the urge to see other places. But I was growing up, too, and my desire to travel was the first indicator of that fact. I left Northern California and my childhood, knowing one day I would be back. The first few years were filled with homesick heartsickness. But that slowly went away. I grew up, saw things, and in the process became who I am. I live a life that looks different than the one I intended at eighteen. (Which is largely good news.)
These days I rarely think longingly about what it was to live in California. But when we walked up that hot summer hill, I couldn’t help but think what I would plant if we lived in Petaluma. Here in the land of magnolias and old oak trees, crepe myrtles and rhododendrons, my subconscious sneaks in thoughts of eucalyptus and junipers, feather grass and succulents. And the daydreaming of it all gives me a nostalgic high.
I may wax romantic about northwest flora but I live here, and I love it.
Here is where we go on walks. We talk and laugh and make plans for a future garden. Here there is a dense richness of color. Fecund forests line every highway. Our seasons are extreme in a way that remind you that you are deeply alive. And the true queens of summer are fireflies that transform tall oak trees into looking like twinkling Christmas trees. It never stops being beautiful.
If traveling was my first adulthood marker, then perhaps the second is embracing the life that is before me. For the first time since childhood, I feel as though I have arrived at the place I most want to be. I may not be digging in my native soil, but I am supremely content to care for the plants in the yard, and every so often entertaining the thought of someday caring for the spare landscape of my youth.