When I finally pulled into my dad’s driveway after the exhausting but familiar eight hour drive, he was just returning home from the lawn mower races at the county fair.
“Dang it, I missed them! How did Tim do?”
“Oh, he was doing good at first, he had the lead until he threw a belt and broke down. One guy crashed and tipped over, I think he broke his finger, it was pretty exciting” my dad described the event enthusiastically.
No joke, this is the kind of place I come from.
Growing up, I hated my little hometown of Ukiah in northern California. I was tired of seeing someone I knew on every aisle of the grocery store and the way that everyone always seemed to know my business. I was sick of the hippies and the rednecks and the meth heads and the big, obnoxious trucks. I’d dated one hippie and one redneck, and I was determined not to stoop to the third category.
“I’m a city girl,” I would declare, defiantly. I couldn’t wait to find myself hurrying along the bustling streets of New York City, surrounded by people and skyscrapers. Moving to a city, any city really, was my dream and I counted down the days til I could finally live the glamorous urban lifestyle I was meant to have.
Then, for a variety of reasons, I moved to Santa Barbara, a mid-size town, for school. While it’s no city, it’s certainly a population increase from my humble origins. I mean, we have multiple movie theaters, a Trader Joes–gasp, no, three Trader Joes– the freeway gets traffic, and hey, we even have a strip club! After living here for six years, it still makes me laugh when people call it a “small town”.
The truth is, I sometimes find myself getting claustrophobic even here, in a place that is a far cry from the sprawling metropolis that I once envisioned myself amongst. The thought of living in a city now actually makes me gasp for air a bit and I long for the (cue Dixie Chicks) wide, open spaces I grew up in; the cows grazing in hayfields, the rolling hills covered in vineyards, and the blackberry brambles bordering long country roads suddenly don’t seem so bad anymore (15 year old Kaleena just rolled over in her grave).
Maybe I wax poetic about it simply because I don’t live there anymore–I’m frequently guilty of a grass-is-greener mentality. Nevertheless, I have finally developed an appreciation of my roots and I cherish the few times each year that I get to spend at home with my family in my little po-dunk paradise. My visit home last weekend was no exception and I already miss being there. Here is a little photo essay from my trip, from picking blackberries and baking pies to collecting peacock feathers and feeding the deer at my grandparent’s magical ranch.
And there it is: proof that I’m no city girl. I grew up playing in golden pastures, staining my fingers purple from the blackberry bush in our front yard, climbing the tallest tree I could find for views of the green vineyard landscape, and listening to the sound of cows mooing from across the railroad tracks. And finally, I am not ashamed. Not even of the time I was in 4-H and I walked a chicken with a stick and won second prize in the county fair. But that’s a story for another day.
I’m a California country girl at heart, but I’ll soon be leaving the Golden State to live somewhere else for the first time in my life–and I’m sad. Not only am I leaving my home, but I’m most likely moving to a city; a huge, urban, congested, polluted city that won’t have an ocean or a field for miles around. Will I hate it? Will I feel stifled and claustrophobic and unhappy? Or will i rekindle the part of me that always wanted to live in a city and find myself falling in love with the metropolitan life? Either way, I am determined to embrace the adventure and make the best of it.
But a piece of my heart will always grow in the wild blackberry brambles on the side of a quiet country road.
Where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.