California

Do you see me smiling? I’ve escaped Minneapolis once again. To the West Coast no less. Nearly back home. Here there is a jaw-dropping, staggering beauty to the natural world that simply doesn’t exist on the East Coast and certainly doesn’t exist in the Midwest. To say that it fills my heart with joy is an understatement.

California. I didn’t know how much I’ve missed you. In a past life I used to come out to Northern California several times a year, but I haven’t been here for nearly 4 years.

I am in the Monterey peninsula for a scientific meeting. A fungal genetics conference. Would you believe that nearly 1,000 people are at this meeting? A complete nerd-fest. But, being a nerd myself, I don’t mind the least. But I snuck away from the meeting this morning (having given my talk yesterday, I decided to give my brain a small break) and walked to the sleepy little town (yet undeniably yuppie) to find some real coffee served to me by a fantastically friendly 24-year old vegan barista. Oh California.

If places can have personalities than people can be places. I don’t think it has to be where you are from, but I think it is often the place you love the most. Its very being can exude from one’s pores.

I would say that I am quintessentially Olympia. The Pacific Northwest with a twist.

Furthermore, the people who have been in your life, the ones whose lives melded with your own can imprint their places into your own being. For example, Scott is Mr. New Orleans and although I’ve only visited that completely charming city twice, I am absolutely in love with that place. I have absorbed it’s New Orleans-ness and made it part of myself.

The same is true for Northern California. There was a past love in my life whose very core was Northern California and so I, in a small way, brought Northern California into my being. And so being back here is like a homecoming with myself in an odd sort of way. I recognize myself here, a part of myself that I buried deep inside myself when that relationship ended.

It’s not about the relationship with the past love; it’s about the person I grew up into while I was in that relationship. It’s a subtle distinction, but an important one. In some ways it feels like I am reuniting with me. No doubt that feeling is amplified because I am finally getting back up on my scientific feet. Being at this meeting, sharing my excitement about fungal genetics and evolution with other scientists and old friends is also playing a big part of me finding me again.

Of course it could also be the sunshine and blue skies that is stripping away the outer layers of gloom that took up residence over the dark and depressing Minnesota winter. Or perhaps just being near the Pacific Ocean again, smelling the saltwater and hearing the roar of the waves. Either way my heart is feeling lighter and stronger.

 

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