California – part 1

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road

It’s quiet here. It’s so quiet that talking sounds like I am speaking in my own ear. Nearby there are small poplars whispering in the breeze. Farther away there are large poplars bent and sparkling under the wind but I can’t hear them. Even farther away there are pine trees blanketing the mountainside. Once in a while a bird chirps. The ground beneath me is hard, tan, pebbled, cracked, whiskered with small dry grasses, yet it still grows a spraying of small pink flowers. On these eroded foothills, large rocks crowd the ever-present sage bush. In more fertile back yards, wild mustard blooms yellow under the blinding sun alongside sage and bitterbrush.

Most of the land here is fenced in, even if it seems to stretch into the distance unfettered. It’s surprisingly cool for mid-day, but I have a hunch that’s because my expectation of California sunshine is that it is blistering hot. This is northern California. High desert. 5000 feet. Mornings and evenings require a jacket and long pants in June. The sun burns easily, yet it feels too cool in the shade. Often the weather gods send a heavy snow on the 4th of July. Perhaps these mountains are not very fond of celebrations because I hear that Memorial Day is also commonly plagued by snow storms and high winds. I have only seen rain in the distance here, grey clouds sifting their load onto lucky soil on the horizon, but never anywhere close. The locals are used to the strange micro-climates and rain-shadows that the mountains produce, but they wish for rain nevertheless. I don’t think it’s the lack of water, because it seems the local aquafer has a stable high yield; I suspect it is the sound they miss. I remember hearing astronauts say that the sound of rain is one of the things they miss while in space for extended periods of time.

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