Home is Where the Sand Is

Something weird and wonderful happened to me almost immediately I left the airport terminal in Santa Barbara last August. As soon as I steered my rental car out of the lot and onto Fairview Avenue toward the coastline, I became instantly Californian again. In a matter of seconds the past 12 years in Oklahoma were totally erased. Obliterated. Everything in me changed instantly, my mindset, my attitude, my sense of place in the universe. My exile in Oklahoma had had no impact on me except to make me appreciate California more. It wasn't what I expected to happen...

Since I've been back I find myself waking up every morning thinking, "If I were in California today, I'd _____". Some days I fill that blank with "... go to the Ventura Marina and write in an outdoor cafe," "... take a drive up the coast," or "... have lunch in Summerland."

Today, I'd go to the beach.

One of the more pleasant experiences I had during my trip was simply walking at the water's edge, then sitting in the sand. I never knew that I loved the cool, crunchy feel of sand sticking to the hems of my wet jeans. Of my feet and toes being crusty with sand drying and baking in the sun. I forgot about always having to dust off my feet before getting into my car. I forgot about the floorboard always having sand in it regardless of how much I brushed and dusted my feet. The things that I'd once considered to be hassles became delights. What I once cursed, I now relished.

The 101 from the California Street overpass.
One year, at the close of the school term at Ventura College, I asked Maestro Salazar where he and his wife Judi were going to spend their summer vacation. They almost always went to Madrid, where they had an apartment in the same building as their son and his family. We were walking across the California Street overpass to have dinner at Erik Erikson's on the Ventura pier. As the 101 traffic whizzed northward below us, he stopped in his tracks, smiling.

"We've decided on a quiet little resort town this year," he said. "It's absolutely beautiful! You should vacation there sometime. It has everything: beautiful weather, stunning beaches, cafes, theatres, concerts. We can't wait."

"Where is this?" I asked.

"It's called Ventura."

The face of bliss.
Last August I finally understood. I finally vacationed there, which means I finally quit taking my home turf for granted. Once upon a time I thought of the Central Coast only as a great place to be from, never a place to be. How this lack of gratitude comes back to haunt me now! However,to be truly happy, we need to practice the art of Being here now, wherever that here is. I'm trying so hard to apply that to my current location, but I admit it's hard. I could list all the reasons why that is, but that would only illustrate my lack of gratitude, which will do nothing to get me back home for good. I will tell you that the hardest thing is struggling to remain positive when people on all sides practice negativity. Negative religion, negative politics, negative reactions to these things however well-meaning. It's quite literally killing my spirit. What I experienced in California was a break from all that. My spirit was revived. Nothing illustrates that more than this photo I took of myself during the last stage of my trip. I had no idea I looked so happy. I wasn't trying. I don't remember the last time I'd felt that good about life, about myself.

I can tell you one thing though. The next time I'm walking on the beach with wet, sandy feet, I'll make a vow never to leave home again unless I have a return ticket clutched tightly in my hand.