I grew up in Central California, Monterey County. We lived all over the Peninsula but I always had a special place in my heart for Carmel Valley. It was the heat. Monterey always had a veil of coastal fog that might or might not burn off. A chill ocean breeze. And a perfectionist kind of feel brought on by the need to impress tourists. As a kid, it felt like sitting on the “good” furniture.
Carmel Valley (at that time) was country – family farms, ranches, cattle, horses, rolling golden hills. My middle school was next to a corn field, part of PE was running around the corn field several laps. One of my fondest memories and forever longings is the smell of the wild flowers at Garland Ranch in the summer.
My childhood memories are of throwing rocks in the river, catching horny toads, and running from tarantulas. My brother took horse back riding lessons at a ranch and I took ballet in a big barn where we begged to have class outside on the grass meadow.
The summer I was 19, I was back at home after a year of university overseas. I had decided to come back to the US but was a bit lost and unsure of myself, my choices, my future plans. My parents had just divorced, I wasn’t surprised but was still thrown, and I spent most of the summer going back and forth to Santa Cruz hanging out with my brother. At some point in the summer he came down with the chicken pox. I took care of him and got it as well.
I took a last minute job as a summer camp counselor for two weeks at Pinnacles National Park. I packed up my Dad’s old army tent (circa 1970s), a camping mattress, canteen, hiking boots, kerosene lantern, trail mix, and probably not much else – threw it in the back of my pick-up, put on short jean shorts and a tank top, grabbed a gallon bottle of water, and set off for adventure, taking the long scenic route on the road less traveled. Carmel Valley Road all the way east.
My little, no A/C, pick-up got great gas mileage (a plus when gas stations were not to be seen for hours), and loved to fly along at a good pace. I rolled down the manual windows, adjusted the radio knobs, and was on my way. Once in the valley, the heat began to bake the earth around me. The air coming in through the windows was hot but laced with the smells of golden grass, oak trees, and wild flowers. The road was empty and I flew along feeling the curves of the road beneath me like surfing a wave.
A teenager on the road – free. My truck was my wings. The radio, my voice. Summer, the promise of possibilities.
This is all pretty rural coming from a self-professed New Yorker. I fit in New York in a way I never fit anywhere else – everyone fits in New York. I am restless and New York offers the World, accessible by subway. But New York also offers a questionable quality of life and massive obstacles to livelihood for those struggling financially. It’s a rough town. I’m taking a break, trying to find my footing.
I am again a bit lost, unsure of myself, my choices, my future plans. Again relying on being home with family, dealing with being thrown by the changes in my life, and recovering from what has felt like a long debilitating illness on an emotional level.
I find myself driving down country roads, rolling down the windows to smell the sweetness of the earth, singing at the top of my lungs, basking in the warmth and quiet. I’m trying to find the feeling of endless possibilities again.