Goodbye Blue Sky

California. It is the place that I am from, but it is not my home. I told my friend this over coffee at Christmas and I think I broke her heart. Somehow selling my house didn’t tip her off that my move was intended to be permanent. Sometimes I wonder why it is that I hate that place so much. It is, in fact, quite beautiful and there are many things that I love. I love the oak trees and the way they twist and turn as they grow, I love the redwoods, I love that it smells like pot absolutely everywhere, I love the hills in the springtime when they are a vibrant green, I love the poppies that splash orange across the landscape, I love the endless rows of vineyards as their colors transform to red in the fall, I love the drive up to Lake Tahoe in the wintertime and that first moment when you realize you are finally in the snow, I love the cliffs of Mendocino and watching the waves kiss the fog just before they crash and I love the tacos, so many tacos. But even with all this love, it’s not enough to defeat the hate.

I hate the traffic, I hate the way that people say “like” every other word, I hate that in the summer all the grasses die and I am left staring at a barren wasteland until November, I hate the Target parking lot on Sunday afternoons as everyone makes their final push for ultimate consumerism before the week is up, I hate the hipsters that think they’re saving the planet by drinking a Fairtrade light roast as they type away on their MacBooks in the recently constructed coffee shop, I hate that we have cities where the contrast between wealth and poverty is so rampant, but what I hate the most, truly the most, is the endless blue sky that can last for days, weeks, and even months. It’s not even really blue, but a brownish grey-blue extending for miles and miles, only stopping when blocked by some hideous construction or when it disappears into the haze of desiccated earth. It’s a sky that just stares at you, reminding you that there will be no rain, no clouds, no escape from the endless sun. In March a sky like this can be moderately pleasant, but by June my heart has withered with the grasses where it remains trapped, hiding from the heat, waiting to come alive again with the first rain.

The year I moved to England there was a national scandal – a resident who claimed to “love the weather.” That resident was me. English weather was a dream come true. It rained, and then it rained, and then it rained, and then it stopped raining and fluffy white clouds floated gracefully across the sky as the sun peeked through illuminating the vibrant green hills, and then it rained, and then it was foggy – that sweet soft fog that surrounds you like the world is giving you a cool wet hug, and then it rained, and then it sprinkled, and then it poured and then it rained. It was beautiful! I regularly took taxis from my home to the train station and when the drivers heard my accent they’d always ask, “Soo, how d’ya like England then?” “Oh, I love it!” I’d reply, “I love the weather, it’s perfect!” I could see their eyes glance back at me in the rear view mirror, they would shift their weight a bit in discomfort and then look back again, certain that the passenger they had picked up was, in fact, crazy.

I never truly realized just how much I loved the rain until that year in England. In California, if it rains people stay inside. Hikes get delayed, BBQs cancelled, the only good thing to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix in a protest of disgust towards the damp surroundings. This is not the case in England, with the majority of days being wet life must go on. Hikes are taken in waterproof pants, BBQs happen with creative backyard construction and a sense of humor, and Netflix is watched in much the same fashion but with the added bonus of a bacon butty and good ol’ cuppa tea.

During my first really wet hike in England, I came alive in a brand new way! I could not hide my childish glee as I scampered down the mountainside surrounded by vibrant greens and wet rocks. We didn’t do this in California, and I had no idea what I had been missing! Everywhere the rain splashed. My face and feet were soaked but my body protected by borrowed raingear. In the months that followed nothing could keep me indoors as I explored hillsides, creeks, meadows and woods. For the first time in my life, I felt at home. I wanted to stay, but life had other plans for me and I returned to the blazing California sun filled with longing for the life I was leaving behind.

Now I am in France where the weather is all confused. Some days I feel the crispness of the cold winter air as I carefully tread on icy paths. Other days, the rain falls down around me giving my heart that flutter of delight. And still other days, I am reminded of the cruel California sun as the clouds dissipate to reveal an expanse of blue. But the sun here doesn’t bother me as much, it doesn’t threaten to stay too long or drain my heart of happiness. The blue sky here is actually blue and, even when cloudless, has a certain charm. Maybe it wasn’t the blue skies I hated so much after all. Maybe it was just living in a place that never felt like home. Or maybe, I’m able to enjoy it because I know that after the sun, the rain will come. There is, after all, nothing quite like a rainy day.

Just a girl in the rain.

The Greatest Heartbreak of All

Last spring, I tried to be a proper adult. I had it all: a great job, a beautiful condo in one of those snobby communities with a tennis court and a pool, the perfect yoga studio and a standing Sunday morning walk and gossip date followed by overpriced lattes at one of those places with sixteen different kinds of milk. In fact, I think they even served air milk. It’s the keto approved, gluten free, allergen safe, vegan friendly, environmentally sustainable, and consciously harvested alternative to actually wanting a latte. But, of course, ordering a one hundred and eighty degree latte with double air milk, extra foam, in small circular mug that has been warmed for five hours in a bath of 40% natural sunlight and 60% fluorescent lighting sounds so much better than saying “A coffee, please.”

I was so committed to this adulting thing that I even tried adding a boyfriend to the mix. You know, a good one, the kind my friends wanted me to date. The kind that I could take to brunch and introduce to my friends because, well, I actually knew his name. I managed to find myself the perfect man for my new adulting lifestyle. He was good looking, with beautiful blue eyes and a nice smile. He adored me, definitely wanted to get married someday, loved his family, went to church and was even building a house, by hand. He wasn’t quite my type, lacking the usual commitment phobic bad-boy criteria, but I thought I would give it a shot. If I can do yoga, I can do anything! Or so I thought…

Mr. Adulting was really trying. He cooked for me, he took me bowling but didn’t let me win, we went hiking and he brought a bottle of the wine that I had loved from our second date, he even hand carved a cute little gift for me. Things were going well, so well that in only a few months I had met his family, he had been to my best friend’s summer BBQ and I even let him spend the night. Everything was perfect. Everything except that fact that I secretly wanted to murder him every time he laughed. But, I understand from my married friends that this is normal. Adulting, yes!

Everything was great, that is, until we went on vacation. It was my mistake to invite him. In fact, that was never my intention. I had my vacation planned before we met, but in a moment of wine-drunkness (surprise, surprise), I sent him a picture of a waterfall and said “Isn’t it amazing! Don’t you want to come?” Big. Fucking. Mistake….. He came! I didn’t think it was possible for a person to book two weeks off and fly across the world from one text message, but these guys who are looking for marriage be crazy! They’ll do anything.

So off we went to Iceland – my favorite place in the whole wide world, the land that fills my heart and feeds my soul. We arrived and I was beyond excited. I practically jumped off the plane and ran out of the airport to take a deep breath of the fresh, cold, Icelandic air. I was in heaven. Everywhere I looked, I saw perfection. The rocks, the clouds, the moss, the lakes, the rivers, the waterfalls, and the mountains. Oh those mountains, the only thing in this world that is so overwhelmingly beautiful that sometimes when I look at them, I mean really look, I can’t help but cry. And that’s without even being wine drunk!

I tried to share my excitement and joy with Mr. Adulting, but he just wasn’t having it. Day 1 of the trip, I tried to understand. It was a long journey, maybe he was tired. Day 2 we went for a hike. If you haven’t been to Iceland, first of all GO!, and second, there is something about the air that even my best writing could not describe. It is cold, clean, wet and alive. When you breathe in you don’t just smell the surroundings, you take in the essence of the land. On my hike with Mr. Adulting, I stopped and I looked at the mountains, took a deep breath, and in utter amazement, joy and peace said, “Isn’t this the most beautiful place you have ever been?” To which Mr. Adulting replied, “Not really.” The fuck?!!!! And so, I dumped him. Not right in that moment, but the next morning. There was no way I could ever love someone who couldn’t feel the land that we were standing on; someone who couldn’t appreciate the beauty and mystery of this Earth.

The trip went on, awkwardly to say the least. But, despite my travel companion, I managed to soak in every ounce of Iceland I could get. Breathing the air, drinking from the waterfalls, kissing the rocks and of course gazing longingly at the mountains at every possible moment. But it was a long trip and while I was off sniffing moss and taking selfies with waterfalls, Mr. Adulting was getting broody. One day he decided he had had enough and would hitchhike home. I casually mentioned that there were buses, wished him luck and got on Tinder, because well, there’s more to ride in Iceland than horses. But this time, Tinder didn’t take me on any rides, instead it changed my life. Now how does a shitty dating app change a girl’s life? Well, the short version goes: I met a guy, who was in a band who sent me a song that I listened to. The ever so slightly longer version goes something like this…

It was the last day of my trip and I had just gotten a text from a guy I met two nights before. He said that he was in a band and would send me a song, and surprisingly he did. I waited until I was at the airport to listen to it, since I wouldn’t have anything better to do but sit and wait. Not wanting to leave, I decided to wait outside until the last possible second. There is a small grassy area outside of the Reykjavik airport where you can just barely see the mountains in the distance. I sat in the grass, looked towards the mountains and put on the song, not having any idea what I was about to be listening to.

The first notes of the song played and I was instantly blown away. It sounded like cool fog rolling over a dry and barren land. And then the singing started. It was as if I could hear the pain of a land that had been transformed by “progress.” I kept listening, thinking for sure this guy had sent me someone else’s song. There was no way some rando from Tinder was this talented. I listened and I listened, and with each note I felt transported to deep undiscovered places, it was like Iceland to the Nth degree. I listened as waves and waves of sound crashed against me, filling my heart and soul with images and feelings from places I had never been. I listened and I felt and I stared at the mountains and then something surprising happened…I cried. Not a big cry, because I know how to keep my shit together in public, but I had discovered something else in this world as beautiful as the mountains of Iceland, something else that could touch my soul and make me feel the things that I run from and try to deny.

So there I was, sitting in the grass outside of Reykjavik airport with a gentle tear running down my cheek, listening to the sound of lands I didn’t know. And it was in that moment that my life changed, because it was in that moment I knew, with 100% certainty, I could never really go home again. Not that I couldn’t get on the plane, because I did, but that home would never be home. California, my condo, my Sunday coffee dates, my perfect job, my yoga classes, my stupid attempts at an adulting lifestyle, they would never make me happy, because all of it was just a distraction from the world I wanted to live in. The world I hope we can all live in. A world that isn’t motivated by consumption, greed and the latest iPhone. A world that understands that nature is the ultimate beauty, power, heart and soul of everything worth fighting for.

I don’t know if I will ever get to live in a world that understands this, but at least now I know what that world sounds like. And while there is a part of me that believes that if everyone could hear what I heard the world would change, sadly, I think too many of us are like Mr. Adulting, blind to the beauty and mystery that surrounds us. Too many of us could look at the mountains and say, “Not really.” And that, my friends, is the greatest heartbreak of all. The heartbreak of a dying world.