On vacation in California, for four days in a row, I drove from our vacation rental along the Russian River to a beach on the ocean, north of Bodega Bay. The first few mornings I admired the view—the tawny rounded hills with the green spreading oaks, the wide peaceful river, the small patch of redwoods, the old barns and farmhouses with big blooms of pink sweet peas and purple lupine encircling the fences.
But by the third or fourth morning, it was no longer the landscape that I drove through—one that was out there. By that time, it had become part of me; I wasn’t separate from it.
It’s what happens on vacations when we have the luxury of staying in one place long enough. Every morning I walked the long beach, saw the seals and their pups who hung out on one end, the cormorants that dove seamlessly into the blue waves, the vultures that floated overhead for seemingly hours on end. All of those pieces became part of the fabric of my life, penetrated deep into the brain.
Returning to the cabin after a two-week absence, the landscape was a bit unfamiliar. For the first time in nine months, everything was green. Inside, intent on my work, I would suddenly look up and get a little jolt. There was color out there, lots of it: the leafed-out aspens, the grasses and flowers covering the ground. Even the barren earth of the septic system, installed last fall, was partially covered by a tall plant with small white flowers, not something I remember seeding last fall when I spent weeks picking seeds from around Meeker Park, but anything green to cover up the bare earth is welcome.
After nine months of what seemed a monotonous and colorless landscape, I had become familiar with the severity and the harshness of this place, even thrived on it. Arriving in a cloud of wonder, June seems like a dream: the pastel blue sky, the sky filled with birds and their songs—hummingbirds, swallows, house wrens—the rocky earth carpeted with yellow and blue flowers, while chipmunks, ground squirrels and baby rabbits crisscross the yard. It’s a whole new landscape; I’ll have to get used to this lushness.