September 18, 2011

California Dreamin'

At this time a week ago, I was basking in the sunshine of southern California, visiting family in San Diego. After a tough week that saw certain areas of eastern upstate New York completely devastated by the relentless rains from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, that caused unbelievable damage from torrential flooding, it was a relief to leave it all behind. (Fortunately, my area and my home were essentially unaffected by the rains, but none of us in upstate feels immune when so many of us were so horribly affected by the devastation these storms wrought.)

Before I hit what is reported to be one of the most temperate climates in the entire U.S. in San Deigo, I traveled to the area of northern California - the central coast area, to be precise - that is arguably one of the most beautiful regions in the country - the Monterey Peninsula.

It's a bit of a long story why I was there, but suffice it to say I'd never been there and the area has been on my personal "bucket list" of destinations for many years. When the opportunity to go west presented itself, and the imperative to visit family began to jive with a slightly longer itinerary, I promptly added Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey to my trip planning. I'm so glad I did.

I mean, seriously, can you believe this incredible landscape? Now, don't get me wrong, I love the beautiful lush greenness of the Hudson Valley of upstate New York - it is beyond gorgeous here, but, I have to say, the dramatic views on the central California coast, at Carmel and Monterey, are just breathtaking. It's always impressive to be looking due west out to the Pacific Ocean and to see the waves crashing and splashing up against the rugged shoreline.

It was a relatively quick trip - out and back within five days - but I covered a lot of territory, from Carmel and Monterey in the north, to San Diego in the south. I had a great time and I can't wait to return to Carmel as soon as I get the next utterly beautiful there.

Once in a while, it's good to get out of the neighborhood and out of one's comfort zone and go somewhere new and different, or just distant, to gain some perspective, and perhaps a greater appreciation of what one has. I've always found it helpful to look beyond the familiar to find new joys in life...sometimes it's as simple as a change of scenery.

September 3, 2011

Summer Resolutions and a Labor Day Lament

In keeping with what seems to be my once-monthly posting schedule, I'm back. It's September, and Labor Day weekend at that.

As it happened, I looked out at my beautiful south-facing view from the laptop desk (yes, it's on a desk, not my lap) early this morning and noticed that the gently rising sun was illuminating the treetops in the distance. The barely sunlit trees revealed just the very faintest little hint of changing color. (See the round-topped maple tree just left of center in the distance in the photo below? Oh, yes, it's definitely showing hints of a warm gold starting to emerge there.)

We had some very hot days in early July, but most of the summer has been predictably warm, but pleasant overall. The evenings, as expected in late August, have started to get much cooler, so by early, pre-dawn hours, I'm sensing the arrival of fall in the air. Not cold, mind you, it's just cool and gradually getting cooler. Alas, the leaves are beginning to tell their pre-autumn tale.

This has been a strange summer for me. Those 13 or so of you who have been following might recall that I had plans to relocate to points south. Well, as with many plans we make these days, those have changed, too.

I had some serious ambivalence about a major, and permanent, relocation to a very hot and humid climate. There was, and still is much to recommend shaking up the status quo, but, practical realities dictated that moving 1,000 miles or so from my home state, home region, and hometown (nearby) wasn't the smart thing to do right now. The emotional realities are even more compelling. I love the landscape here, its seasonal changes, its beautiful greenery and gorgeous terrain. I live in a lovely rural area that many people adore as an escape from the harshness of the urban centers of New York City and Boston. I love the history and the culture of this place and the cultural resources of this region of the U.S. There is so much right in and around my area to see and enjoy. I also realized that, bottom line, I really am a dyed-in-the-wool upstate New Yorker and a true Northeasterner. Given a choice of where to live, I would rather stay here for so many solid reasons.

So, I can report now that any relocation plans have been moved firmly to the back burner, and most likely will be removed from that "stove-top" entirely. That said, I wouldn't resist the option of spending the harshest winter months in a warmer climate. I would absolutely relish it, but I don't want to spend summer months there. It's just waaaaay too hot down south in summer for this Northeastern cold-blood!

So, I'm staying put, and I'm just as glad about that as I was at the prospect of pulling up stakes and moving elsewhere to escape the winter's blast here in the Northeast. But, my most important resource - my support system of great friends - remains here. I have no family remaining anywhere in the state, so I must say, there were a few occasions when I relied heavily upon that solid support system to assist me with a few unexpected events this summer. I'd literally have been lost (or at least seriously, and potentially expensively, inconvenienced) without them. Sure, I can make new connections in a new place, but I can't replace the good friends who go back 20, 30, and some 40 years and longer. That's really not something to dismiss lightly. They're precious resources, those great, good friends, so I don't minimize their importance in my life.

Along those lines, one of the major events of the early summer (well, late spring, really) was a significant high school reunion in late May, and the importance of lifelong connections was reaffirmed over those two lovely days and evenings. One of our 27 surviving classmates (it is, and was, a small school and a small class), a vibrant, highly creative woman, had been diagnosed only a few months earlier with and advanced-stage cancer. Still, she made the heroic effort to join us, traveling from her waterside home in Connecticut to celebrate each other and the four decades since we had graduated. She had endured the chemo, but her doctors had told her there was nothing more to be done as treatment. Needless to say, the other 13 of us who attended our reunion were so glad she felt well enough to join us, and she seemed to be very glad to be among us, as well. Although it was unspoken at our reunion - it really didn't need to be said - we all knew that it very likely would be the last time we saw her. Indeed, sadly, it was. She passed away peacefully just a week ago at the hospital near her home, and with her passing the importance of keeping one's friends close became even more profound and pointed for me. It reaffirmed that staying near where so many of my friends are located has become far more important than my escaping the cold and snows of a few months of winter here in the Northeast. Life's too short to treat those friendships so lightly.

So, enjoy your Labor Day weekend, and if you can't spend it relaxing and reminiscing with family and good friends, think about giving them a call to say hello, so you won't regret what you didn't do when you ultimately have to say one final goodbye.