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.

15 comments:

  1. Hello, I'm considering starting a blog,is it very difficult to do? Which blogging solution do you use? Most people are telling me to use Wordpress.

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  2. It took me a long time to get used to CA but now I love living here. Yes, there is sprawl but within minutes one can find herself in the middle of nature sharing it with coyotes and other animals. And then there are endless vistas... this is a good place to live.

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  3. Durango Joe6:13 AM

    I think I mentioned before you CAN have your cake and eat it too. Also, you start to realize wilderness doesn't always have to be something way out there - it interfingers with the urban environment, sometimes just feet away.....

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  4. Nice Jill...during my first work-trip to the San Jose area I was awakened to the startling reality that all around that sea of humanity existed WAY more public land than I would have ever dreamed. I really look forward to our contract regaining some work up there (hopefully when the economy finally picks up some), cuz I miss it.

    I'd pack up my car with both bikes (mt & road) and my little hotel room would be chock full of my 'travel stuff' (mostly cycling or food related). I'd get off work at 2:30pm every day and with the days chosen aluminum steed already waiting in the car I could use the carpool lanes until 3pm to beat the traffic to that day's destination. Sneak in a 2 or 3 hour ride, eat some kind of dinner and do it all again the next day. Travel life can be simple yet fun!

    Nice to hear how quickly you've been 'assiimilated'. Welcome to California!

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  5. I like skiing, but I also spent seven winters in Florida. It's all about happiness within, I am finding. Glad you are liking it there. Honestly Alaska is the best place, I think, but we all can't stay there, for many reasons.

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  6. Marian12:29 PM

    Nice post! I think that if you know what you are looking for you can find your place wherever you go.

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  7. Anonymous1:01 PM

    Here's to all of you staying in those crowded, sprawling places and leaving the true wilderness to we few.

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  8. True wilderness is always available to anyone willing to do the work to seek it out. Living near wilderness isn't enough. I used to live in Juneau, a modern city absolutely inundated by undeveloped wilderness, but how often did I get out into the true wilderness? Honestly, not much more often than I do now. Free time was limited and I spent most of it on the edges of the city, in these quiet beautiful places that I still loved even if I could see buildings in the distance.

    The wilderness is still out there, for all of us.

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  9. if everyone went there all the time it wouldn't wilderness, now would it?
    that's what I've found so great about mtn. biking, almost every city has a trail and there are getting to be so many great trails in every State that one can get off the beaten trail pretty easy even those that choose to have "normal" work life.
    I've ridden different trails day after day not seeing a soul. when I do run into fellow bikers or trail runners, it's more of feeling of fellowship of a best kept secret than an intrusion of my privacy.
    Wilderness is great, so is being in the middle of city on a ribbon of single track following a river bank where you swear you could be miles from anyone.
    To me variety makes it that much more fun and knowing it's there for those that make the choice.
    motoscotch.blogspot.com

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  10. I think you can find a home, and happiness in any place. Happiness is a state of mind really.

    I'm glad you have found happiness. Now rest your road rash body. Sometimes those road rashes can be as painful as burns because it exposes all the pain receptors in your skin. OUCH!

    I miss you!

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  11. Great post, Jill. The top picture is terrific.

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  12. I'm a roadie so my take on wilderness is a bit different, but I love to ride in the company of mountains, lakes and rivers. There is so much beauty to be found in our beautiful state and I'm so glad you're out there seeking it.

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  13. I really relate to this post. This place has grown on me as well. It is not Alaska but nothing is.

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  14. Very nice post Jill. I'm happy for you. As you said..."Life is Good"

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  15. Jill, I love the last line of your comment.

    "The wilderness is still out there, for all of us."

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