Thursday, April 14, 2011

Finding my place

Six months ago, if you asked me how I felt about the idea of moving to coastal California, I would have cringed and made a sour face. In fact, six months ago, I did exactly that when I was visiting Utah and my sisters asked me about possible future scenarios with Beat. "I like him," I told them. "But California ... I don't know. There's just so many people, so much sprawl. I have this sense that it's not my kind of place."

What is my kind of place? It's a place where I can go outside every day, where I can walk out my front door and wander into the mountains, to quiet places where I can listen to streams gurgle down narrow gulches and watch wild animals sprint across open meadows. It's a place that sometimes pummels me with drenching rains and stiff winds. It's a place with steep roads to climb and narrow trails to ride, and enough of both that every day has potential for new challenge and discovery. It's a place where I can find solitude, and also enjoy time with friends. It's a place where I can take photos I appreciate and have experiences I cherish. There are of course a lot more attributes that might make a place absolutely perfect for me, but these aspects are the basics, the aspects I need to be happy.

I went for a bike ride today. It was a low-key, "short" ride, because I am still in downtime mode. Even though I've only lived in California for just over a month, I've already scoped out my comfort places — the places I seek sometimes to challenge my physical limits, and other times to spin easy and think. But even in this secondary mode, I can still plan a two-hour ride that includes 2,700 feet of gut-busting climbing, strenuous enough that my "time to think" thoughts soon dissolve into gasps and whimpers. Today I rode to Black Mountain. At the top of the climb, I met up with a small group of mountain bikers who tempted me onto the singletrack. We descended into the green rolling hills on a narrow ribbon of trail, dipping, weaving and grinning like children. After several hundred feet, the jolting on my bruised arm and knee became too pronounced and painful to continue riding downhill. I waved goodbye to the mountain bikers and turned back up the trail, back to spinning smooth and climbing — my favorite mode of travel.

Back at the top of the mountain, I startled a large herd of deer. I stopped as they darted away and listened to the strange zipping sound of dozens of hooves tearing through the grass. Just as the sounds of the stampede faded, I heard other, even more eerie sounds ringing out from the crest of the next hill. Low moans and yips preceded a long, drawn out howl. I squinted into the low sun and realized there was a pack of coyotes prowling the ridge. I could see their slender bodies silhouetted against the golden evening sunlight.

I stood there a while longer, listening to their yipping and smiling at the sun. I have found my kind of place in a lot of places, but I honestly never dreamed I'd find one here.