California Dreaming (on such a winter’s day)

I’ve been in California visiting my sister. She lives north of L.A. where it’s warm and sunny and there are flowers blooming and the sweet smell of salt and florals in the air. In some places, like along the boardwalk in Ventura where the surfers congregate, even the smell of vomit and urine roasting in the sun smells sweet to me. I just can’t believe that as the Midwest has had day after day of below freezing temperatures for so very long, there are people elsewhere in the world who are playing outside in the surf. They’ve been so quiet this winter, these sunny-place people. They’ve kept their secrets well while the rest of us have been filling feed after feed with weather notices and plaintive indictments of the cold.

Flying back into Indiana last night after all that good sun really was like being dropped into a mood cloud–my poor dark state full of pasty overweight people. The pessimism, needless to say, was contagious, especially when faced again with all the unfinished business I’d left behind.

We’d had dinner with the Lickonas one night which prompted discussion of whether or not a coastal move would ever be in store for the Duffys now that my husband’s company has relocated to Carlsbad. And I was full of hypotheticals about how, perhaps it is conceivable, assuming we’d consent, but consent isn’t likely since we are Midwestern to the core, and we love our deciduous trees, loamy soil, and pastoral farm land. Our families are here, the cost of living is so low, and the yards are so, so big. Who could give up the ribbons of two-lane highways and low gas prices in exchange for grid-lock and fuel emissions testing? Who could exchange the $100,000 mini-mansion for the million dollar bungalow? The cows grazing on tall blades of bending grass for the arid industrial strawberry complex?

Well it turns out my Midwestern affections are more fickle than I first thought. I get it now. I get why people want to live in Southern California. Aside from the fact that my sister and her family are there, and I always want to be where they are, aside from the lemon and avocado trees that grow in people’s very own backyards, aside from the incredible thrift stores on main street in Ventura, aside from the ocean which serves as both a constant source of entertainment and a reminder of one’s mortality, I get the appeal of living in a climate where it’s an eternally pleasant summer. Would I miss the four seasons– the tundra of winter, the rain forest of Indiana summers, and the brief but ever-so-lovely Spring and Fall? Actually, I’m just not so sure anymore.

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Litany of Days
“Go On”: Interview with Jack Baumgartner, Part III
“Hunger”: Interview with Jack Baumgartner, Part IV
Interview With Artist Jack Baumgartner, Part II
About Elizabeth Duffy
  • Jocelyn Jaquiery

    Exactly the same dynamic exists in New Zealand between the South Island and Auckland. Our envy of Auckland vents in the form of a shameful amount of Schadenfreude and the sports slogan “I support — and any team playing Auckland.” But still Auckland grows every year. The rest of us, not so much.

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      They keep talking about a brain drain in the Midwest, but there are plenty of jobs here. I think the drain is because of the weather.

  • Emily

    Shhh, don’t let the secret out! Your pillows are still sitting out if you want to return…

    I do miss the delight of crocuses blooming in the midst of melting snow. Send me a photo to look at while I’m sitting at the beach!

    • Elizabeth Duffy

      I miss you already.

  • Julia

    I suspect the question of location is akin to the question of child spacing: there are advantages and disadvantages to each situation, and the real issue isn’t which option you like better or is more comfortable, but how you adapt to what you have. Glad you were able to appreciate the good things, even without cows and empty roads.