If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
~Something Wild, Andrew McMahon and Lindsey Stirling
“You’re stronger than you know.”
Good to be thinking.
I’ve generally enjoyed making changes in my life, despite being a methodical person who depends on regular little daily sub-schedules, on things staying in their assigned places so I don’t need to spend time hunting for them. As a handicapped individual with mobility challenges this aspect of organization serves me well.
Sometimes a whole lot of changes show up in a short period… and I do feel something beyond simply dizzy.
Such as now.
Only last June Elf, Opus and I found ourselves squeezed into a rental Ford Taurus that had hand controls different enough from those I’d been using in other vehicles that I barely managed to brake in time to avoid T-boning a big white panel truck. We were accompanied from our long time home in the middle of New Mexico by an enormous rent-a-truck jammed to capacity with three generations of family belongings. Headed for California’s gorgeous Bay Area. Which in short order I learned to love for its glorious trees, land, mountains and salt water, for the tech companies all around, the whizz-bang techie culture, the marked diversity amongst the humans, plus many other things.
Maybe a tad less the super laid-back vineyard-visiting, fine wine cultures that can … once in a while … feel … a bit … removed from normal American life. But hey, I’ve been a middle class person mainly, without time for too much laying back.
Now we are preparing to leave this pleasant, if costly region for the more normal all-American mid-section of California known as the Central Valley. That’s the place where corporate farmers struggle for water to continue growing nut and fruit trees and where over half the fruit, nuts and vegetables in the US have been grown — despite a severe five year drought that depletes ground water supplies alarmingly. Cities are sinking as the water level drops, along with farming acreage.
It’s a place where big issues will continue playing out for a long time regarding global warming, the difficult and sometimes awful choices to be made about what lives and what dies. Endangered salmon versus thirsty almonds.
Occupying a huge section of California between the coast and the mountains just before Nevada, this valley starts around Bakersfield in the south, ends was up around Redding in the north. In the middle near Yosemite, Fresno, at something over half a million people, is its largest city.
My own preparations for this next move began with acquiring my first wheelchair van, a 2010 Dodge Caravan with some 76,000 miles on it. Time to knock off denial of my gradual physical deterioration. My dream was to whizz around in a gorgeous new little Tesla, but the reality is that electric vehicles aren’t ready to provide power for the ramps nor the space that wheelchairs need. Soooo….
Meet the van, which goes under the working nickname WV (Wheelchair Van) for now.
I’ve had it three weeks today, and as of next Monday it will (hopefully) be registered with the DMV and I’ll have my California driver’s license. Such is the busy-ness of the state’s motor vehicle division that it takes that long to get the necessary done, by appointment.
Getting WV all set up with the kind of chair anchoring system you need in order to drive from your wheelchair rather than the usual seat took the entire Thanksgiving week, and then some. Then began two serious learning curves of wheelchair driving — one, figuring out how to position the wheelchair into the lock so that the mechanism would agree to unlock and let me out when I needed it to. Still working on that, though things are improving. The actual driving, if one has been doing it for over forty years, comes back even after six months of inactivity. The second adjustment — for me, anyhow — is adjusting to Google Maps on my iPhone, which must sit in the cup holder just under the right wheelchair arm.
Either Apple makes getting proper directions a bumpy process where its arch rival in smartphones is concerned, or I’m missing something.
My first trips alone in WV were up and down 101, sort of — because Maps would send me off or away from the highway and into useless little residential regions of Silicon Valley. Where I experienced the dull thud mentality of passing streets with names like Semiconductor Way near Texas Instruments in… well, I don’t actually know if that was Santa Clara, Sunnyvale or what.
Alone I also indulged my love of watching salt water riffle in the wind out near the western bottom of San Francisco Bay. Seabirds wove their powerful way through air currents on business only they can understand, sailboats bobbed as pines along the shore bowed to air power. The kind of cool, windy day in the Bay Area that makes me glad to be observing the outdoors from inside a warmish vehicle.
Last weekend my daughter, Elf, Opus and I took our respective spots in WV for an apartment-hunting expedition 160 miles southeast in Fresno. That’s a place, in the midst of the San Joaquin Valley, I had not visited in the past, so it was with keen interest that I took stock of subtle changes in geography as we left the green coastal areas, crossed the Coastal Range east of Gilroy in the rain, to flatten out in what looked just about perfect for New Mexico. Scraggly batches of trees crowded together in corners between tracts of land here and there. Sky, sky, high and all around, so much vaster than what lies below the atmosphere with its burden of carbon, methane and other abnormal quantities of chemicals. It presses down on the endless fields.
At first we were in another natural New Mexico landscape — sheep country. Except here, rather than out with Navajo sheepherders and their dogs in rough chapparal or mountainous terrain the woolies grazed in large, flat, empty-ish square areas. All sorts of sheep in various colors and sizes, with and without horns and black faces. Despite the vast surrounding lots, true to their nature as herd animals the sheep clustered together.
After some miles of them, up popped a few red country billboards. Make America Great Again, some alluding to a contentious water bill then moving through the US Congress — Is Politics More Important Than Food?
For those of you who care about the environment and/or the food grown here for so much of the country (and world) — the bill passed a few days ago. Pitting California’s two long-serving women senators against one another. One favored holding enough water to protect endangered species of fish and other creatures further north, the other was intent on striking a balance — of sorts— between the environment she also has long fought for, and the interests of Big Agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. The latter was what passed in the bill this week. (And I have much simplified what is in its complexity.)
All of that latter matter served to make getting acquainted with a special Baha’i woman near where I now live all the more inspiring this week. She, too, is deeply concerned with sustainability and other environmental questions, and has come to champion no till farming as an emerging method that does the earth good with every crop. A question perhaps for a different blog, no till or carbon farming has chiefly been adopted by farmers in Great Plains states — notably a “red” region of the USA. Which serves to bring people of differing political persuasions into collaboration when it comes to things so basic to life as agriculture and maintaining a healthy earth.
If I’d thought the acreage around the lovely Gilroy area was spread out enough to be “Big Ag”, my daughter had scoffed at me. As we got closer and closer to Fresno I could see what she meant. That acreage goes on till the earth curves in the distance. Often in all directions. Never saw anything quite like it before, in person. All in a zone of semi desert.
We will be moving to lovely Fresno within the next month. Once landed there we met up with Paco, my soon-to-be son-in-law, to visit a couple of apartment complexes, lunch with Elf and Opus at tables outside a Subway, admire a lot full of Christmas trees sprayed with fake snow, chase the dogs away from an encroaching rat, then to experience a medium-heavy rainfall that discouraged further apartment checking for that day. After a lovely dinner at Paco’s off we rolled into the night, where there was only music to muse about amidst the blackness of scenery during our return trip. The wistful, rhythmic violin of Lindsey Stirling with various pop singers kept us awake.
Altogether it feels like WV and I will get along, assuming that Paco doesn’t mind keeping the removable, substantial driver’s seat in his garage.
With the wedding a mere month away we now begin that awful process known as Packing the Boxes. Moving them south bit by bit. Sorting through furniture and other things with an eye to parting with as much as we can.
Oh — and planning the wedding, creating the decorations that Jericha wants to fill the hall they are renting.
Not dizzy much, me, till I start thinking of moving and marrying at the same time. Thank heaven that it is my daughter and not myself doing the marrying!
And that’s the reason for the song up at the top. When life makes me woozy it’s the Something Wild that restores my belief in the goodness of being alive.
Down time beyond the next month I will love looking back at our days and friends here in Silicon Valley, at the wonderful wedding, at our WV journeys, the discovery of another new home area. While I’m rattled those wild places do, indeed call me home even more powerfully than usual.