Out to Sea (aka: A Stranger’s Perspective)

I live in a suburb of Sacramento, in Northern California. And, as I mentioned in a previous post a year ago suburb snore  , I have really never liked living in the suburbs, where I have always felt like a rose trying to bloom in a concrete desert. I used to imagine my life in a secluded cabin somewhere in the mountains, or an artsy bungalow somewhere in the Bay Area, or a high-rise apartment in some grand city – anywhere but some dull suburb filled with boxy chain stores and look-alike houses. It is when I dwell on those old dreams that I feel the familiar tug of wanderlust. I don’t want to keep standing on the old wooden dock, watching the sailboats head out to sea. I want to be on the boat, sailing toward anywhere but here.

I recently met someone who is a seasoned world-traveler. And while I was hoping to live vicariously through his tales of adventures beyond my own dull suburb, he said something completely unexpected. Sacramento, he said, is freakin’ awesome.

Wait. What?

Okay, when I think of this place where I live, a dozen descriptions come to mind. And not one of those is freakin’ awesome. You don’t know what you have, said the stranger, along with a few other things that made me ponder. And ponder. And…you get the idea. What on earth does this little part of the world have that an outsider would see as something special? Like the INTJ that I am, I analyzed it and made a list:

Ways in Which My City Rocks

  1. Affordable housing. (Yes, well, there are some serious hole-in-the-wall places around the country with cheap housing, too. So maybe that isn’t so special).
  2. The river! (Because that means wildlife, and wild places for hiking and water activities)
  3. The Kings and the Sacramento Republic (NBA basketball and, well…MLS hopeful team)
  4. Some of the most beautiful autumn foliage out there (Seriously. You should see it).
  5. Everything is just a 2 hour drive away. Want snow? Two hours north. Sea? Two hours southwest. San Francisco? Two hours. Giant redwoods? Two hours. Mountains? Two hours.
Midtown Autumn

Fall foliage in midtown Sacramento

Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t exactly count, because it is not about being in Sacramento. But it is still a huge plus for a wanderer like me. In fact, just yesterday, my kids and I drove two hours away to Point Reyes – one of my favorite Northern California destinations for its wild, rugged coastline, wildlife, and beautiful scenery. We enjoyed a great hike through the wilderness and a perfect day on the beach. Then we reluctantly said goodbye to the fresh, salty air and headed toward home.

As we neared Sacramento, I had to rub my eyes a few times. Where our city began, the clear blue skies ended abruptly in a thick, brownish-grayish haze of smog. My kids and I stared in dismay. “Does our city always look like that?” asked my son.

I shook my head. “I don’t know. I hope not.” The smog was so incredibly thick that it obscured our view of the downtown skyscrapers and crept inside our car, burning our throats. Nope, I decided. Sacramento was not freakin’ awesome. In fact, I wanted to freakin’ turn the car around and drive back to the Bay Area.

“Oh look, there’s a fire over there!” my daughter pointed out the window, where, sure enough, a plume of smoke rose from an urban area wildfire, filling the skies with smoke. Aha. So the thick haze was not how Sacramento usually looks. That was a relief.

community summer gathering

There’s something to be said about those events where the community gathers together to celebrate and have fun together.

After returning home, we gathered our portable chairs and joined a few thousand neighbors in the park across the street from our home. My kids raced around to inflatables and puppet shows with friends from school and soccer teams, and then we sat back and enjoyed the big fireworks show. And as I sat there, content by my children’s side, I realized how good it felt, after a long day at sea, to have returned home again. To have a safe park and nice kids for my kids to play with, and warm summer nights to sit with the community, watching a fireworks show. That is freakin’ awesome – and one of those things that chips away at the concrete barriers, exposing the earth and letting the flowers bloom wherever they’re planted.

celebrate fireworks

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6 responses to “Out to Sea (aka: A Stranger’s Perspective)

  1. I live in San Buenaventura (Ventura, to the postal gods). I live in a 55+ community where one is expected to put out the flag any time national prestige demands. This is not the San Francisco I loved because the fog flushed the air twice a day, or the East village of my youth where bumping into writers, actors, an poets was a daily occurrence. Nor is it the ex-pat life I had come to love in an earlier time. I comfort myself by knowing that things could be worse…I could be living in Blythe.

    • Love the image of the fog flushing out the air twice a day. 🙂 And I totally get it — growing up in and near the city, we never had smog. Always crisp, clean, cool air from the bay.

      I guess that is just another tribute to how life changes, and locations change, and people change, but we can hold onto those fond memories and learn to make the best of what we have, right? There is so much common sense in that perspective. It could be so much worse. I could be living in (where is Blythe, exactly?), or Lodi. Or Oakland. God forbid! 😀

      On the other hand, there is the philosphy of the dream-chasers. Why settle for the complacent life of mediocrity, always wondering what might have been? Why not chase down the dream? Why not live life without compromise, pack up the kids, and move to Seattle, or back to the Bay Area, or across the country? Which path leads to the contented life? Which philosophy results in a life well-lived?

      • Blythe is a real, though metaphorical, town, a place that Steinbeck might have selected had Salinas not been so much richer. It is a way-point on the road to Phoenix, almost sharing a short stretch of the Colorado River with Ehrenburg, Arizona.
        I do enjoy your posts. They strike harmonic notes.

      • I just read a description of Blythe. And yes, I could picture Steinbeck writing about such a town, and exposing both the dirt and the diamonds. (And suddenly, I have an urge to read Steinbeck, though it’s possible that I have already read all of his books. Hmm…).
        If only you knew what it means to me to hear when someone enjoys one of my posts. I write for the sake of writing; because I am a writer above all, and so I must write. But if I write something that resonates at all with another person, then oh! It feels so satisfying. 🙂 Like brushing wings with my true life’s purpose.

  2. I actually think Sac is freakin’ awesome – I would love to live there. Incredible weather, great size, great access to the Sierras, the foothills, Downieville, Desolation Wilderness and the coast of California. Surfing, snowboarding, mountain biking, road riding, bicycle tours out the back door … and all in ideal weather! It’s in my top ten locations of dream places to have a home base. I actually have a colleague who moved to Dallas from there, and she almost never rides her bike anymore – she misses it.

    I’ve lived in Athens, Georgia, Manhattan, San Francisco, Seattle, Port Townsend, Washington, Ashland, OR, Cave Junction/Takilma, OR, downtown Dallas, Plano, TX, Coppell, TX, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Ithaca, NY, Jackson Hole, WY, Wenatchee/Leavenworth, Washington … Sacramento has a combination of great attributes that none of those places has (Takilma and San Francisco I think are the only ones that really come close).

    • Lol…okay, maybe the weather is pretty decent here, except for those days when it creeps over 100 degrees. 😉 I can do without that. But it is pretty much perfect in the fall and spring, and winter is cold, but not the harsh, biting cold I experienced in the Portland, OR area years ago. And the people here are pretty cool, too. Most people are pretty nice, laid back, and tolerant for the most part, and I’ve hardly ever encountered racism, etc. So I guess there are a lot of plusses to this city. But every now and then, I get an attack of “The-Grass-Is-Greener” syndrome.

      Ooh, Desolation Wildnerness. I’ve been dreaming of backpacking there. I once did a great backpacking trip through the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and that would be hard to beat. It’s been years, though, and I don’t think it would be safe to do alone (being a woman and all). But I’ve been window-shopping backpacking supplies and dreaming. 🙂

      You have lived in so many places! Ooh, including two of my favorite cities, Seattle and SF. 🙂 I have only ever lived in California. Born in LA, lived in San Jose, the East Bay (and SF part-time), Fairfield-Suisun, Quincy, and here.

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