01/31/2014 by syrbal-labrys
I love that sun-gilded volcano/mountain 30 miles from my home, but I also love the state of California. The first time I went there, in 1974, to attend language school at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I had never seen such beauty! A friend who had been in the same Basic Training Company as me soon fell in love and married there — her new husband, a big bluff darling of a man, was the brother-in-law of Beach Boy Al Jardine! I felt like I’d fallen into a fairy tale — and a fairy HILL, with no strongly pronounced seasons it seemed like time did not pass. I spent weekends at my newlywed friend’s dwelling — a fairy tale cabin belonging to Al Jardine. I listened to a famed musician play an Italian mandolin while talking about medieval music! I ran into movie stars, literally in a beer spilling way, at a bar in quaint Carmel. I visited the house John Steinbeck lived in and bought all his novels.
When I went back to Monterey again, when my own husband went back to that same language school, we took our children camping in Big Sur. I visited an old friend on the Fishermans’ Wharf and took my family to live plays in his playhouse there. I wanted the nine months of school to last forever. I drove to downtown Monterey to deliver my daughter to ballet lessons, I paid fabulous bills for Montessori pre-school long before I head the song about life in any fast lane. Being even temporarily Californian was pretty intense work. But I wanted to enjoy it fully, since I knew it could never be mine permanently. We took the aged and fragile great-grandmother of our children to San Carlos Cathedral to see beautiful gardens full of hummingbirds; and we took her to see redwoods in Big Sur. We wrangled her wheelchair to the sight of our favorite beach – Asilomar and fed her seafood on the Wharf.
So, when I say it grieves me to see California getting no winter snow and rain, drying in an exceptional drought, I am most sincere. It rips pieces of my heart every time I read of a fire there, and like someone who DOES inhabit the place I visited like one under a spell, I mourn deeply.
It reminds me, bleakly and darkly, of one of my favorite Steinbeck novels – “To a God Unknown” – a violently moving story of California in time of drought. A family, finding the old patriarchal religious story somewhat inadequate, splits over the heterodoxy of one son and ends with a seeming sacrifice to the dry before rain breaks the spell of death and doom.
If only it were so simple as blood on a stone. But it is not, other more difficult sacrifices would have to be made on a global scale. Instead? I fear beautiful California will “bleed” for the ecological sins of the many, and it is for me, handwriting on the wall of time. Because Washington State — beautiful and foggy wet somewhat like the Monterey Peninsula –is seeing climate changes, too. Our rain used to begin in October, and then in November. Finally, wet or white Christmas became more than a song title — but now, sometimes the serious rains don’t begin until late January or mid-February. Our own snow pack is reduced, I can see dark foothills that should be white! So I read the future of my chosen home state in California’s present. But more than my grief and mourning will be required to change that prediction! I think knocking some climate change denying sorts upside the head might be a good start, but that could be just me? Or not!