Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Goodbye California

Now that the sun is shining, we are out of here. Two weeks of rain, and now clear skies and temps in the 70s. One of wettest springs in memory in the San Francisco Bay area. The average annual rainfall here is just shy of two feet, amost all of it November through March.

Winter rain isn't a big deal on the northern California coast. Folks do what they normally do, wet or dry. We lived three years in Vancouver, so we get it.

Maybe it's the winter rains that give California its character. And, individual character it does have. Individualism is celebrated everywhere. You see it in the architecture. Many of the homes, new and old, are custom built. There are few noticeable cookie-cutter subdivisions.

The best examples of individualism are seen in homes built in the steepest spots. One place, farther up the hill here in Orinda, is so short of flat land that they built the garage on top of the house. Cars parked in garages above living rooms or bedrooms are not uncommon here.

The hundreds of thousands of people scattered across these hills live in the shadows of a number of natural disasters. Wildfires in the summer dry season, landslides in the rainy season, and of course earthquakes. I sit typing now directly over the San Andreas fault.

It's easy to forget about these terrors because it is so pleasant here. I sit out in the backyard and look across the valley to Orinda village and listen to bells and chimes coming from Santa Maria church. It's a Spanish-style mission, as are many of the Catholic churches here, and they still have nuns in habits.

Behind me, way up on Grizzly Peak, is a stunning view of the entire Bay area. Down below to the right is Berkeley. Not many nuns in habits evident there, but lots of good bookstores and pubs.

One thing that strikes you on this side of the mountain is there are no huge malls and big box stores and chain eateries, in sight. Just wooded hills, with houses and towns where most of the shops and places to eat are small and owned by individuals. In some of these small towns even the original movie theatres stand in prominent spots, still operating.

Orinda's art-deco movie house opened 1941
Now that rains have ceased, people are outside. They have flocked to Lamorinda Reservoir where there is a three-mile walking trail, fishing and paddle boats for hire. You can imagine the activity that will be here when the hot weather arrives.

A sign along the walking trail tells me it definitely is time for me to leave. The sign is all about snakes that become active when the weather warms. There are rattlesnakes but the sign says they are seldom seen. Oh, yeah. Goodbye California.

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