We left San Francisco and drove south. I rarely left the city, so everything looked new to me. California is much more than cities and beaches. There are miles of these rolling, golden hills dotted by oak trees that look like broccoli.
We spent a warm night in Bakersfield, then drove on to the foot of Tejon Pass, between the Tehachapi and San Emigdio Mountain ranges. These are desert mountains, and the desert terrified me for most of my life. I hated the lack of water, shade, people. It's called "desert" for a reason, after all; people are not well-suited to live here! Desert! Get out!
But something about this mountain pass excites me, visually. The mountains look soft under their yellow grass, but they are extremely steep. I expect sharp, naked rock to break through at this altitude, but it doesn't.
My knuckles were white on the wheel as we crawled over the giant anthills. I asked Misa to take photo after photo of the mountains as we passed, and she said, "You are NOT coming back here to paint pictures!" The girl knows me too well.
At last we coasted down the long slope to the sea. I heard Joni Mitchell's song California in my head, and wondered if I'd see her standing naked on a rock.
When I grew up, there were a thousand songs about being free in California, and we all got sick of the idea, which was unfortunate. There really is a feeling of freedom and possibility here, such as I have not experienced in other places. Here it is, all this space, all this warm, fragrant air. What will you do with it?
Will you take me as I am?