As someone who has moved around quite a bit, I know what it's like to long for home. I've moved in and out of apartments, homes, dorms, vans, tents, and several different countries for extended stays of several months at a time, and finally, I find myself in my new permanent home in Central Oregon. Bend to be exact.
My favorite home I've had so far is the one I am in now. I feel super grateful for the studio space it offers me, and the safety and security, and proximity to Michaels Arts Store. :)
The second favorite home I've had was the Fresno home I spent my teenage years in. We had just moved from the Bay Area to this brand spankin' new TRAC home. I recall standing out front in the yard, at 12 years old, scratching my head in front of this dinky little tree, wondering how to climb it. I stuck one little arm up on this brand-new tree, still anchored to pole supports, and realized that I couldn't climb it. It was too weak and too new. It had no strong, tall branches. That was depressing. But the home got better with the heat of summer.
I had moved away from our family home in the Bay Area with humongous trees! My mom would often find me swinging from the top of 25 foot pine trees in our side yard, or playing with polly pockets atop a large green tree with a perfect natural platform for my small body to crouch inside and escape the world below. I remember we had a beautifully cultivated orange tree in the center of our backyard that was perfect for climbing and gave off fragrant blossoms each spring, too.
So the move to Fresno shocked me and brought me back down to earth with its small, unclimbable saplings. I do recall, though, things turned quite around on hot summer evenings, when it was still 90 degrees at 8pm. I remember looking out from my driveway, up into the big black sky at night, and seeing hundreds of bright, shining stars. I loved the heat of summer, how it baked my body, melting away all tension and stress that the cold of indoor air conditioning and isolation caked on. Whenever I walked out of that home into the heat, it was as if I was entering the sauna- a dry heat entered my bones and my muscles instantly relaxed.
I miss the ocean.
Home in the Bay Area meant several trips a year to the coast; up to Fort Ross or Mendocino, and most often to Pajaro Dunes, the last frontier of private beach resorts on the California Coast, where my Grandma has a timeshare. This was a happy time in my childhood. I loved visiting the ocean and the accompanying fern-forests and rivers and rocks and streams. I remember picking and tasting wild blackberries up on the cliffs of the cove at Fort Ross and hiding from my family, enjoying myself, all alone for hours, as my mom sat on the beach with my baby brothers and my dad spearfished for rockfish, sheephead and freedove for abalone. I remember catching a small sardine with my bare hands in a pool of water, left behind by the ocean tide, and running amuck through the forest near the cove tasting raspberries which grew wild. I remember exploring the tidepools, sticking my small feet into sea anemones, the ice-cold, salty water stinging my legs, the anemone sucking onto my toes when they squished shut to protect themselves from my invading interruption. I remember picking off starfish and examining their tentacles, feeling their interaction, surprised by their tenacity. I remember freediving with my dad, when I was older, 14 or so, getting sick and dizzy in the swell, feeling the pounding of my head from the ice-cold water as it rushed inside my wetsuit as I dove down to the rocky bottom. As I arched my body from the surface and propelled myself downward with my fins, I would swim down through clouds of sandy water, the kelp forest revealing rocky brown craggs with glistening silver abalone perched on rocks near the ocean bottom. As I dove, I could see only a few feet in front of me at a time, that sandy water revealing inch by inch, the next thing, and the next thing, as I dove, searching, breathless, and scared.
I remember the trips to Fort Ross, clearly, as we went every month during ab-season. Every time we drove through the misty green hills of Petaluma, we would pass a bend in the highway which swung around to reveal a large, dead, sheep corpse. We passed that poor deceased creature every time, and each time we rode by it, our whole car looked on in horror, awe, and fascination, as we documented with our eyes its slow decay. Month after month, we drove around the bend and saw it slowly and painstakingly melt into the ground, layer by layer. First, its volume sunk into itself, then its sinew, then its wool, which stuck around like an over-used toddler's blanket, full of holes draped sparingly over the dead sheep's ribcage. Finally, its bones remained. The bones were the last to go, sticking out of the green grass and wildflowers like flags on the moon, which bleached to a gray, off-white in the sun. After years and years, the earth finally overwhelmed the bones with green grass, and consumed the animal which fed off of the earth's nourishing slopes its whole life. There was eventually nothing left of the sheep but its memory. And that was my education on what will happen to all of us someday.
As I remain in Bend, OR, slightly landlocked, slightly bored with my options of recreation as the winter months come to an end, I turn to memory to sustain me. I turn to the pillars of my past-- the ocean, where I found God. Shores of adventure, and fear overcome by awe, of challenge, of hope, and of mystery. Raised by my father to "always respect the ocean" and "never turn your back on the ocean," I reach back into my memories and to my foundation as my place of re-generation and re-creation. This is my source of wonder that never tires or grow old. Even when I was surfing, in Malibu, Newport and Manhattan Beach, the conditions were always changing. I never grew tired of the beaches that I visited because there was always something new to be discovered.
That's how I feel about painting too. The colors remain the same. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and white, silver and gold. The combinations are endless and I will never tire of them.
That's how I feel about God. His new mysteries are revealed each day. Life is always changing. We are always changing.
As this winter turns over, and the wheel of time spins onward into the future, I reflect on the past. I remember the ocean.
Missy A Kitchell says...
Having spent my early childhood in Northern California, I have some similar memories. We would travel to the Fort Bragg area where my parents and grandparents and other extended family would fish off the rocks. I have a certain affinity for the beach, yet I live in the mountains. Glad you landed in Bend!
May 06, 2019