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Goodbye, California Home

Tonight at 6pm I board Delta Flight 8549 to Paris and then make a connection to Montpellier. If all goes well, I will be snoozing on the bunkbed of Montpellier’s hostel by 7pm local time tomorrow. That gives me around 7 hours more under the glare of California’s skies. I think I will bid Green Valley farewell as it’ll be a while before I come back here — if I do at all — and the poppsychologists claim goodbyes to be cathartic.

The sun over the high desert, within which sits Green Valley, seems angry or vengeful. Its glowering stare withers what weeds sprout, vaingloriously, against it, except for the disperse clumps of jimsonweed which seem likely to prosper anywhere. Over a century ago, a mining company braved the blue and angry sky to extract zinc from the land under my parents’ house and built a bunkhouse to house its workers. That bunkhouse, which has been augmented over time with new rooms, forms the main body of my mom and stepdad’s home. The room I slept in is an addition from the 1920s. The walls of the bunkhouse were originally covered with wood shingles; but those became victims of the air, and they splintered and warped. They were torn off and replaced with stucco, which has cracked also expressing its thirst.

Various buildings have sprouted up around the old house over time: a tin shed, a garage, several horse stables, outbuildings, a mobile home, silos. The sun treats them with the same contempt it serves the weeds, and the buildings exhibit dryness just as do weeds’ withered leaves or the tortuous frames of oak trees. The upkeep on the buildings is as extensive as it is subtly intensive. Over time, the walls have shifted and cracked, settling thirsty under the weight of the sun; the iron hinging doors or stringing fences has turned sickly and red with rust; the wood of gates and doors has splintered. The weeds continue their importunate growing.

I think I will miss most the smell of rain immediately following a thunderstorm, a smell that pervades the quiet left after the last thunderclap. It smells of raindrops grappling with dust, of moisture battling dryness, or something like the taste of mud intermixed with the feel of fine sand grinding on the surface of teeth. It reminds me of the way damp earth clings to the skin when rubbed between fingers, wettish yet thirsty, and the pitter patter as clumps of that earth fall from the palm to the ground. A wafting smell of dirt and weed blossoms and dusty oaks stirred up by an unawaited storm.

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