Geography / Southern California / The South

Mountains of longing

A few times, I’ve been driving when up ahead, the sun shines in such a way that my heart catches with longing, with recognition.  I feel an almost imperceptible tilt, as if I weren’t driving north on I-65 but heading north on I-15.  My rational brain quickly shakes the mirage and keeps me focused on the real road in front of me.

Sometimes, if clouds are building in the north, they resemble the silhouette of mountains.

I miss the mountains of Southern California.  The San Gabriel Mountains and the San Bernardino Mountains  anchored my line of vision for thirty-three years.  If I could see the mountains, then I knew which direction north is and could get myself un-lost.  I lived all of those years in houses or apartments from which I could see the mountains to varying degrees.

I loved watching the seasons (as they are in a Mediterranean climate) play out on the facets of the mountains.  In wet winters and early spring, the foothills are covered with emerald-green grass.  In summer, the mountains, brown and seemingly bare, shimmer in the heat.  In late summer, the mountains sometimes smolder with wildfires, the flames visible from the foothill communities.  Winter snow falls on all of the mountains when it’s cold enough.  How far down it falls and how long it stays there depends on many weather factors.  But the mountains are a key feature of Southern California and help to create its favorable climate.

My husband and I spent many weekends exploring these mountains.  We loved to take a day trip up to Lake Gregory to walk around the lake and stop at the little Crestline grocery store deli for sandwiches.

A view of some of the back peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains, 12-4-10

There are many people, places, things from Southern California that I miss.  Desperately.  I’ve spent too much of the last year second-guessing our decision to leave.  I knew this transition would be hard, challenging, difficult, overwhelming, exciting, different.  I “knew” but had yet to feel all of those emotions and thoughts, often simultaneously.   The first year was so overwhelming on so many levels.   I suppose that I could have found one little thing to talk about each week to keep up my former blog.  I thought about it, but I didn’t write it.  So now I start over.   I talked myself out of writing a blog about the differences between the South and Southern California.  However, several people have assured me that this topic is interesting and those who live in one corner of the country are unaware of their region’s uniqueness.  I refer to mostly people, but I could extend this respect to any feature of a new place.  For example, I’ve learned to respect the fact that the South is home to both the black widow and the even more poisonous brown recluse.  I will still post random observations and talk about writing in general, but I will focus more on being a transplant, on transplanting a family, as we ever so slowly settle into our new red clay soil and put down a few roots.

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