I have lived in California for long enough now that I can find things I like about this place. It took nearly four years, but I got there.
I have always loved (even when I hated just about everything else here) late afternoon. The setting sun gives everything a golden quality and tone. Colors are brighter, the sky is bluer, and it seems like the best of California is crammed into the two hours before sunset. As we also live in the shadow of some rather large hills, the sky stays light long after the sun has retreated down the rambling tree-covered slopes on it's way to the ocean. When that happens, trees and buildings seem to be lit from within; the reflection of the sky throwing luminous, pearl-like light down to the earth, creating not-shadows--those slightly darker smudges you see only at dawn and dusk.
And also, like Christine says, parts of 280 (I have not lived here long enough to call the major highways and freeways THE 280, or THE 101, like they are the only roads of importance anywhere in this world) are beautiful in the spring.
The little cave that leads to the river flowing into the ocean on Seabright Beach is beautiful, even if some of that beauty is due to the proliferation of seaweed growing on the old (really old, thank goodness) sewer lines from Santa Cruz that lead to the ocean.
I like the coolness of the morning here, since it seems like the air is fresher at the beginning of the day. With so many people living here, the air at the end of the day and into the night seems tired from brushing over so many things while the sun is up.
I like Bill's Cafe. No, I love Bill's Cafe. And Ike's.
I like that Birdy's clothes are able to be worn all year long. No cold weather clothes needed here, saving us some dough.
I like seeing the hills on either side of the valley and knowing the ocean is just over there. Living here made me realize that for me, hills and mountains are home more than just about anything else. Except maybe farmland.
I like that the trees have green leaves for eight months out of the year.
I like that we have farmer's markets all year round, and that you can buy cheese, meat, and fish there as well.
Leading up to our move to California, I was worried. About our marriage, or the distance from friends and family. This was a new place, and unlike everywhere else I had lived. I had these ideas of "blooming where I'm planted," since we had no idea where we were going to live leading up to the job offer that came quite a long time after the interviews were over. And while I tried to talk myself into enjoying where we lived, I failed at it pretty miserably.
Several times a day I thought to myself, "if I just got in the car and drove, I'd be home in 13 hours." Home had regressed to where my parents lived, not where we had lived in Pullman or where we were living now. I was miserable, and took it out on The Hoosband. My worries about the health of our marriage were proving to be valid. I hated living here, away from everyone and knowing nobody but Ben, a friend and co-worker from our last jobs at RSU. But thank God for Ben--having him here gave us something to do on the weekends and someone to talk to.
I didn't anticipate that moving from a rural town to the Bay Area would be very much like moving to a different country. People were so different here, and there were stores and restaurants and freeways and it was so overwhelming on so many levels. Every time I left the house, I would see no one I knew or recognized. It was never quiet; people were everywhere. The women dressed differently here, and I didn't fit in with both my clothes and the way I looked. We didn't know anyone with kids Birdy's age, or with kids at all, really.
When I did find someone to be a friend, I had so much need in me I believe I overwhelmed her. I knew I was doing it, but I couldn't stop. I needed someone to talk to that would answer back in complete sentences (thanks for being a baby, Birdy), who I could talk about my feelings without making them feel responsible for them (the Hoosband), and who also had a small child and didn't have time to shower every day either.
It has taken nearly four years, but I have a few friends here and a I have a job that at times may be annoying, it at least makes me annoyed at things I can walk away from at the end of the day. I still don't love it here, but I tolerate it, which is saying something considering where I started. I'm thankful also that I was miserable when Birdy was so young, since now she'd definitely notice, and as a parent you are supposed to a leader to your young children and not lean on them.
Wherever we go next, whenever we get there, I'm hoping that I'll have a better attitude and be more prepared with my emotional health. Maybe next time, I'll be ready for the change--really ready. And maybe I'll be less like a standoffish Seattleite and stop looking at people like they have three heads when they start to talk to me at the grocery store. And maybe I'll seek out a community instead of waiting for one to come to me. And maybe we'll move back to Washington, where people are normal and it rains all the time and Birdy can ride a bus to school. And maybe I'll make some good friends, but live close to the ones I already have.