It is raining. Real California winter rain, finally. We got over two inches, this storm. Life-bringing rain, pouring everywhere over the land, filling the streams, soaking into the aquifers. Rain has a powerful emotional effect on me, perhaps because I grew up here, and am extremely conscious of water, always. The lack of water.
It has been a long time since I first thought of leaving here. As in, thirty years ago. I have never been able to adjust to how desperately crowded California is, how abraded and abused the land is because of it, how over the years the people here seem ever more driven, ever more tense, ever more pretentious, ever more suspicious of everyone else.
It's a difficult place in so many ways, but it's my home, I grew up not thirty miles away, all my family is here, and the climate and topography is in my bones. We built our own house here on this little acreage, my husband's work is here, and so we stay.
Perhaps everyone has a quite specific dream of Place, what it means to them to be home, or to be free, or to be at peace. For me, it used to be a grassy California hillside decorated with ancient live oaks. But I find I have become too worried about water. California is drying up. When we got here in the nineteenth century, we Anglos embraced the idea of stealing water from somewhere else, and we've used that stolen water to ignore how severe a climate we have, ever since. But those water sources, which we exceeded the capacity of some time ago, are now dwindling. We've heated up our planet through greed and shortsightedness. The Sierra snow pack, which feeds all except the short coastal rivers, is diminishing and may well disappear entirely, and much sooner than anyone can believe. Or adapt to.
Even if human beings somehow manage to change their Screw The Future behavior, even if the horrible climate changes scientists now believe are going to happen even if we all became sane tomorrow, didn't, I would still want to move. I am so weary of the bony eroded look of every pasture here. Even in wet years, every pasture is always overstocked, as if it is simply impossible for anyone to accept how much unirrigated land it takes to feed grazing animals in a climate where it doesn't rain from April to October. I dream of a place that doesn't take thirty acres to support one horse. A green place.
It's a selfish and limited idea, I admit. However, I find it pretty alluring.
Besides green, I have a couple other things on my wish list: flattish, and sufficient. When I was ten years old, my family moved to a hillside house, and from that day to this, I have never lived anywhere even relatively flat. I'm not talking Great Plains, I just would like to be able to put down an object and not have it roll away. And I would like to have enough grass and browse to support a small flock of sheep and goats. I don't need a ranch, just a small farm of twenty to forty acres or so. That's the dream.
From living in and visiting other parts of the country, I have discovered a few other requirements. For example, a view. Topography which precludes a vista (such as nearly all of the East coast), makes me claustrophobic, raised as I was in an area with a spectacular horizon at every turn. I don't need spectacular, but I do need to see out. And then, hot humid weather transforms me into wet kleenex. Dry heat is fine, but not wet heat. That lets out a lot of countryside. However, there are still a few choices.
It's raining, which is completely good. Hard long winter rains make me feel supremely relieved, saved once again, for now. It makes me feel drowsy and dreamy, perhaps the way people in snow country feel in deep winter. And what I dream about is green. Not wild green, but green grass, old barns, good fences. Farm dreams.