California is an amazing state. Sure, we have the occasional earthquake that goes on and on until you're not sure the ground beneath your feet will ever be stable again, and sometimes our mountains catch on fire, but man. What a gorgeous place. I'm not necessarily talking about Riverside (although, despite my daughter's protestations, it does have its own beauty and charm). Over the last couple of weeks, I've had a chance to take in different parts of the state's character--the slow, quiet pace of the Delta region, with its burgeoning pears and ears of corn and rivers that can't help but make you take a deep breath and settle into yourself a bit. The gentle rolling hills of Sonoma wine country, the unexpected drive through redwood forests (where the light changed as it came through the trees, turned green and syrupy, like really good olive oil). The signs to watch out for deer, and then actual deer appearing, bounding through the woods. The bursting out onto PCH with its rugged drops into the ocean. Breathtaking, truly.
I had never been to Mendocino before, and am so grateful I had a chance to soak it in during my time at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, even though my time was abbreviated; I had to miss the first couple of days of the conference because of my teaching schedule, and then missed my Friday night reading because of a late plane and bad (5 hr) traffic--by the time I got to the bookstore, everyone was gone, alas, and only a few cubes of cheese remained on the snack tray. But the time I did get to spend at the conference was rich and sweet; an utterly lovely group of both faculty and participants, all brought together by the director, Charlotte Gullick, who is charming and funny and does a beautiful job of making the conference tick--all while giving it a social change emphasis. To top everything off, she put me up in a stunning local guest house that had a huge skylight over the bed so I could see the stars as I fell asleep at night, and windows out to the ocean and the deer during the day. I look forward to returning to the area some day and having more time to explore, more time to partake of all its gifts.