I Get Why People Live Here
Manifest Destiny took us west. The Gold Rush of 1849 took us into the heart of California. The allure of fame took us to Southern California at the turn of the century. I now fully understand why people call it home. Here, the opportunities and possibilities seem endless. Over the course of my life, I have been fortunate enough to visit several times. Every single visit was filled with some new adventure, attraction or a reintroduction to a great moment from my childhood. This trip was no different. Now, I write this fully understanding there is a difference between visiting some place and living there. California and Southern California in particular are not without challenges. It is HOT, they are running out of water, traffic is horrible, the landscape is nothing compared to my home in the Pacific Northwest… Despite all of this, I still get it. It all comes back to the belief of endless opportunities and possibilities, as well as an endless amount of things to occupy your time.
I Feel Comfortable Here
I feel very comfortable in Southern California. The rhythm, people and climate are near ideal to me. With the sheer size of Los Angeles, I know I could find work to inspire me and a place to make a difference in the world. That’s all I ever wanted to do. Now, I don’t know about leaving Seattle anytime soon, but if the right nonprofit spoke to my heart, I know I could make Los Angeles home.
There Is Beauty to Be Found Here
The desert is not the forest and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In my four years in Seattle, I have hiked and driven through parts of this state possessing unmatched beauty. I say this boldly after having visited 36 of our 50 states, “no state can match the beauty of Washington.” I also believe there is beauty to be found in the deserts of California. The vastness of the ocean still makes you feel small and as if anything is possible. The Hollywood hills still play backdrop to an ever-expanding city with various pockets where community and culture blend together into one. As you drive toward Arizona on your way to Palm Springs, the rolling hills give way to desert sand. Dunes, jagged mountains and cactus monopolize your view, but as the sun sets, the real show begins. Light pollution is silenced here and heaven’s amphitheater is dashed with sparkling dots of stars assuming the role of a sparkler on the fourth of July. Yes! There is beauty to be found here; you must be willing to look for it.
I Travel Differently Than Others
I’ve known this fact for some time, but I travel differently than others. More often than not, I would rather forgo the creature comforts of the perfect accommodations and succulent meals for the pleasure of being enveloped in life altering experiences and affirming conversations. I would rather mix with the salt of the earth than pretend to be something I am not. I travel in the hopes of collecting transformative experiences not to be pampered or because I am owed something. Now, I don’t say this to fault those who desire these things. I say this as a mere statement of fact for myself.
Man in the Desert
Now, keep current news headlines in mind. California is on the cusp of what some scientists are calling a “mega drought.” Some are predicting decades of water scarcity. Somehow, this message didn’t make it to those living in Palm Springs. The lawns are greener than mine in rainy Seattle. Palm trees are abundant and non-native plants are entrenched in flowerbeds of homes for as far as the eye can see. Water is sprayed into the air during the day and most seems to find a home in the street. All of this brings up a powerful question; is man meant to live in the desert? As I drove all over this city, the things I have read about our changing climate ran through my mind. I answered no, not like this. It all seemed so selfish and inconsiderate.
Life Shared with Others
I say these things about our changing climate with this in mind; I am a hypocrite. On a daily basis and well into the better part of each night, I was shirtless lounging around a pool or swimming and drinking with friends both old and new. Here, in these moments, I experienced community and the allure of calling this home. On one hand, the theme of a life shared with others kept running through my mind and on the other was this thought that we shouldn’t be here.
No Need to Ever Come Back
I get the draw of Palm Springs, but I don’t need to come back. It feels like a resort for people twice my age. Everything feels manufactured and no one seems to be from there. As I mentioned above, this is not why I travel. I am not looking to get away or an escape. I am looking for an experience. Palm Springs was too comfortable, too clean, too manicured for me to ever enjoy it. Maybe I will grow into it one day. People tell me as I age I will want to be more comfortable as I travel. Funny enough, those same people told me I wouldn’t be as liberal in my political views as I aged. If you know me well, you know they were way off on that one.
Salvation Mt., Slab City and the Salton Sea
The drive out to Salvation Mountain, Slab City and the Salton Sea were the most important parts of the trip for me. I’ve seen “Into the Wild” more times than I can count. I promised myself after watching it the first time I would visit all three of these places. I have never been brave enough to follow in Chris’ shoes, but for a brief moment it was powerful to stand where he stood and get a glimpse of what it is like to disconnect. Standing atop Salvation Mountain, the beautiful painted hill pictured above, the agnostic in me felt the truth of what many call “God.” God is love and that love comes in many forms. We’ve applied so many rules, traditions and interpretations to this simple idea, we’ve lost the notion of love. Quickly driving through Slab City, I was confronted with life off the grid. It was freeing to see people choosing to be unshackled from what society expects of them. Living in the heart of the desert, must be anything but easy, but I was moved beyond words by their silent protest. The Salton Sea greeted us and let us go back to our lives. From it, I saw water; water for food and life. It isn’t the most beautiful body of water I’ve ever seen, but its necessity is beyond comparison.
Disney and Lucas
On our final day in California, we were fortunate enough to spend the day at Disneyland; a place I hadn’t been since I was in the 9th grade. The park has changed a great deal in those 16 years, but I couldn’t help feeling nostalgic. When I was here last, it was with my mom, dad and two younger brothers. Everywhere I turned, I was reminded of Lucas and the pure joy he felt as he rode the rides and made memories that were intended to last him a lifetime. As I look back on those moments, I remember him at his happiest. There isn’t anything in this world I wouldn’t give to go back to that moment in time.
Thanks for entering my world,