Saturday, August 27, 2016

One Month Later

Last weekend as I pictured a destination a friend and I were headed to, I imagined long green grass and the opportunity to use my picnic blanket. There isn't too much grass in California. The location had no grass, just dirt. I'm left thinking some days -- when I have the time to think of grass and plants and study the landscape -- how much I wish I knew what the plants and trees were called. As I think about the transition of the last month, I realize it's all felt very natural and calm. Emotionally things have been steady and predictable, I've just moved from point A  to point B to C and so on throughout the day, week and month and the decisions have happened naturally. Knowing I needed a new setting and challenge seem to add to the general ease of adjustment. I love and miss New Hampshire,  and have found I truly am homesick for the summers, lakes, sounds, sunsets, traditions and people there, but I was prepared for and was seeking this change. The days here are very different, the weather and lack of bugs still baffles me. Cars are common. My work is 7 miles from my home and with my car recording the average speed of each trip, I've found I average 15 - 18 mph on my morning commute. The moments with new friends, out walking along the ocean or talking or laughing somewhere have felt familiar to other friendships, warm and welcoming and kind. When driving, there are so many beautiful ocean views seen from the highways or from secondary roads that now with the summer fog disappearing -- are incredible to see. It's on the new roads and routes though with a surprise view of Monterey Bay and the bright turquoise or dark blue ocean when I'm reminded of why this is right for now. Driving home at night too, among the darkness of a navy sea that seems to stretch west forever, to streetlights with a golden glow, to tall, unfamiliar trees with barks and needles I've never seen, remind me of the calm and comforting moments that exist in even unfamiliar places. There's a tree I spend a minute or so under most mornings while at a stoplight. It has bright yellow leaves and crunchy brown leaves lining the ground above its roots. I don't know what the seasons hold here, and am mostly assured that there are no seasons, but the tree reminds me of fall in New England and in that traffic, I feel for a moment that I'm in Massachusetts. Then I look around at the other trees and it looks like no where I've seen before.

Ending last Sunday was a week-long stretch of car shows on the peninsula. Some of the shows were fancier than others,  but the amount of vintage cars seen around town was quite fun and made up for the added congestion. The most unexpected sight was a bright red double-decker London bus. I noticed a show near my home and as the cars were being packed away on Sunday afternoon, I parked my own car far enough away (so it wouldn't be packed away in a truck... ;) ) to see these cars up close.

Along the coast in Pacific Grove.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Four or five nights ago, I was falling asleep and suddenly thought "I know what I'm doing here, I have friends and a group of people I know. It's easy to get around and I like living and working here." It's true. The fluency of life here improves every week, but in the most basic sense, I've reached a point of comfort, knowledge and enjoyment in everyday. There's still plenty more discovery ahead, but in finding a routine and friends and activities I enjoy, the familiar has returned.

Walking through Pacific Grove last week.

Most mornings in Pebble Beach look like this, but this one a few days ago looked particularly mystical. The air was also very smoky this day from the wildfire, thinking this might be a mix of fog and smoke.

Deer are everywhere here! Day and night they graze at this sports field, though they don't stick around when teams try to share the field.

Summertime is nearly permanently foggy close to the coast, but a few late afternoons have shown some sun! Taken on separate days around the same time. Hit or miss!

 I had such a nice time this weekend visiting my friend Zoe from Scotland in Palo Alto where she lives now. She's a wonderful and fun friend and we had a great time catching up and exploring. We headed to Santa Cruz for the day on Saturday and enjoyed walking the boardwalk and along the ocean and seeing UC Santa Cruz's gorgeous ocean views.

It was probably the sun, bright blue sky and comfortable temperature, but I visited and left Stanford thinking it was most beautiful campus I'd ever seen.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Saying Yes

California is feeling right. The first week of work went so quickly and the first weekend has gone even quicker. In meeting new people and adjusting to a new environment, there's been growth and happiness in embracing each change. Saying yes to everything (or as much as possible), embracing spontaneity, and living in the moment has felt like the best decision.

I turned 24 a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised at how fun the day was with new friends. Before the sun set, I headed out to the coast in Pebble Beach and enjoyed the peacefulness of the deserted beaches.

(Earlier in the evening I took a nature walk and marveled at the large pinecones!)

An ocean selfie to remember what turning 24 looked and felt like. It was and remains very happy.

There are so many deer here. I've seen 2-3 a day the last week but today set a record with five, including one with antlers! They all have big ears and are a bit larger than the deer I saw in the east. I recently learned they're not hunted here which explains their abundance. Most of the time I see them on the roads in the Del Monte Forest, always taking their time. The other day though, there were two in downtown Monterey among the many homes. A smaller one was climbing a set of stone steps to a front door while it's parent or guardian spent some time camouflage in this wood pile. 


I visited my brother and his girlfriend in Berkeley over the weekend. The trip was a little over two hours each way and immediately brought my back to driving across the country with my Mom a few weeks ago. I hadn't been in a car for that long since, and getting gas for the first time in a week or so brought me back to purchasing it at least once daily for 11 days. The time spent there was so fun and the food delicious. The drive is also quite nice, spanning multiple microclimates and filled with agricultural fields and hills. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Transition & Succulents

I began work yesterday and through new colleagues and activities in the evenings, I'm feeling like I'm really getting to know Monterey Bay! The transition here has been unlike any before, it's most similar to college, but so different as I'm not surrounded by peers also looking to make friends. I've realized how much I love having people around and how important it is that I get involved where I can and meet people. So far, so good. 

I recently moved to Pebble Beach (temporarily) and found the microclimates I'd heard about in this region are true! Pebble Beach is very close to the ocean and foggy nearly all day, and usually between 57 and 61 degrees day and night. Each evening when I've traveled a mile or two inland though, it's sunny and warm and the socks and sweaters are removed! I've been assured by many that September and October will bring summer and that this is the foggiest and chilliest time of year.

Before I left Santa Cruz over the weekend I visited one more Redwood forest (Henry Cowell) after visiting the Big Basin forest the day before. The height of the trees and the amount of shade they provided amazed me.

 I was referred to the amazing Succulent Gardens greenhouse in the town of Moss Landing (great name!), which might best be described as a football field-sized greenhouse of succulents and cacti. I bought a few little succulents and loved seeing so many different varieties of the plants.

Flowers in Pacific Grove last night and street scene in Monterey this evening.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Writing, Redwoods, & History

I've heard it said so many times that writing is a muscle. I haven't always believed it, but it's true! The more you do it, the easier it becomes. I've struggled to find a place for this blog in post-college life. Selecting a direction and theme and pursuing it was harder than I thought. Traveling has helped, as has sharing poetry or photography or nature. California though, has sort of been the jolt, the re-entry into wanting to observe, write and share.

This morning I ventured north to Big Basin Redwoods State Park. The roads to the park were so curvy and the trees seemed to grow taller and taller. Since I was solo, I found a one mile hike and found so much peace and serenity in the forest.

As I walk from place to place here, I see so many flowers and plants that I recall the names of from childhood, remembering my Mom teaching me about them. As comforting as it is to weave those memories into life here, I seem to see twice as many plants I've never seen before! The flowers are gorgeous but the many succulent plants growing out of the ground might be the current favorite.  

Santa Cruz, tonight.

I'm hesitant to discuss or write about politics for so many reasons this election, most of all because it feels as if in this moment there is so much hate and distrust and disagreements on both sides of the aisle. While I do lean to one side politically and am quietly passionate about issues of equal rights and inclusion, I don't want to be writing about or weighing in on individual candidates. Rather, like so many women (and men) this week, I was inspired to see the first presidential nomination of a woman to a major political party. However you feel about the individual, it's an exciting time for equal rights.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Few Days in California

It's been nearly a week since I arrived in California and in that span, I've attended many, many appointments, joined family as a tourist, and began to acclimate to life here. In short, it's beautiful. It's sunny. The plants and trees are gorgeous. The taxes are real. The food (and produce in particular) is delicious. It's crowded with cars and so friendly, and chillier than I imagined in the evenings and mornings and it's time I learn a bit of Spanish, to pronounce my surroundings at the very least.
Point Lobos

Unfortunately the Soberanes wildfire in Big Sur began burning shortly after we arrived and has since closed Point Lobos, the first place I visited along with my brother and his girlfriend once we arrived in Monterey Bay. A state park stretching several miles along the coast, it was clear and beautiful there. Two days later when we headed south to Big Sur for a lighthouse tour, we saw flames in the hills and finding how full the air was with smoke, we turned around. In the following days, we stayed in Seaside, even farther north, where smoke was sensed once we stepped outside, where the sky was brown-orange and ash littered the cars. Now, in the interim between the initial settling in period and before I begin my job, I'm farther north along the coast, in Santa Cruz. I'll head back to Monterey this weekend. It's a nomadic life. The first four weeks in California will bring six different places to stay after 10 nights spent across the country. And it feels right. It's freeing. So many new places have become a part of this journey, and while I'd love to settle in one place and be able to fully unpack, I know it'll come in a few weeks when my lease begins and there's much to experience before then.

My parents and I enjoyed visiting the Carmel mission, a Catholic basilaca dating back to the 1770s. Also pictured: last night's sunset in Seaside and Monterey's Fisherman's wharf a couple of days ago. 

I've been finding a way to do laundry and swap out my clothing each week, and in the rotation, I go into the three large plastic totes I brought west. When I see the carefully folded and packed items I brought to California, there's pride and happiness and joy at what traveled west with us. There's not much of it, but it feels like unpacking holiday decorations but accompanied with a connection that we crossed the country together. 

Monterey Bay ended up being pretty cloudy the last couple of days and I spent all of today (the first clear day) in Santa Cruz, where the sea and sky were mesmerizing. 
Santa Cruz boardwalk and nearby surfers

Santa Cruz

downtown Santa Cruz

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Driving West Part III!

The final chapter! We've been in Carmel, CA for a couple of days now and it's been lovely. My Dad flew out to meet us and my brother and his girlfriend joined us from Berkeley. It's been a restful (and informative) couple of days as I transition to life here. The western journey of our trip included Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California and was really a final push, one that while scenic, we pushed onwards at a quicker pace, ready to arrive.
Wyoming, like South Dakota, was beautiful. Once we crossed into the state though, we experienced the most frightening part of our trip. The straight secondary road we were taking led us into navy skies. I was driving and my Mom checked the storm radar as we pulled over at a rest area. Radar sections of orange, red and pink were heading in our direction. 

Large raindrops fell, followed by hail that shifted from pea to marble sized, but was so loud hitting the car and bigger than any hail we had seen. The wind picked up and a wooden and metal garbage can in front of our car detached from it's ground attachment and began to move a few inches. I was worried it could hit the windshield as the gusts of wind were blowing road signs and we felt our car moving gently. The worst parts of the storm lasted only 6-7 minutes but felt stronger than any thunderstorm we had experienced before. 

In Utah, we stayed with my aunt, uncle and cousins and I fell in love (once again) with their lovely rabbit. I had visited southern Utah earlier this year and found that the northern part of the state didn't look too much like it, but there were a few reddish rocks like the one above. The most remarkable and unfamiliar scenery of the entire trip were the salt flats west of Salt Lake City. They sprinkled the landscape as white round pieces of land and walking out on one felt like walking on patted down snow. It was 95 degrees out, but the images look so wintery to me. 

Truthfully, I-80 through Nevada was the least scenic and most desolate chunk of road we had experienced. It's an enormous state to drive across and I hope that drive doesn't need to happen again soon. 


Once in California, the Sierra Nevada was gorgeous! Such tall pine trees and mountains. We were a bit south of Lake Tahoe but I'm looking forward to visiting it soon. As we approached the Monterey peninsula, the agricultural towns began to smell like garlic and peppers and we saw fruit stands on the side of the road. The peaches and strawberries purchased were SO delicious. 

It was great to reunite with family in Carmel and walking along Point Lobos (above on the left) with my brother and his girlfriend was incredibly beautiful.

I can't say I've been to too many aquariums, but I had heard the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the best in the U.S. and I can say it was the most amazing I've ever seen. The background music throughout the aquarium was beautiful and relaxing and paired particularly well with the jellyfish!

As beautiful as California is, it's natural disasters were evident today. Despite knowing of wildfire, we drove about 20 miles south to Big Sur, planning to attend a lighthouse tour. On the way there, firetrucks lined highway 1 and smoke filled the air. We saw flames in the hills and turned back when it was too smoky outside of the car. We watched the smoke rising from the hills (pictured above) a few steps from our home this afternoon. 

There's so much beauty here and as I get settled in the coming weeks, I'll certainly be writing about it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Driving West Part II!

Hi from Nevada!

Back to the midwest. Rockton, Illinois was an adorable and tiny small town to spend a night in. We walked the quiet main street, enjoyed a local cafe, and I ate the most delicious waffle cone I'd ever had. The ice cream was pretty tasty too. From there, we headed through a giant chunk of Wisconsin and on to Minnesota. Both states were quite green, full of farms, and flat. 

We've managed to take a picture together in nearly every state (we forgot Wyoming!) and creativity has been the goal. The Medical Pioneers of Minnesota plaque might be a favorite.

Ah, South Dakota! The only state we spent two nights in. When we arrived in Sioux Falls, we found that even as the largest city in the state, it was so walkable and scenic. There were sculptures throughout the downtown and we had a delicious dinner at a restaurant that served South Dakotan food. We both ordered burgers, which neither of us have a huge fondness for, but they were DELICIOUS! When in Rome. Sioux Falls also provided a really fantastic airbnb experience in which we met other travelers and learned so much about the region and state.

The following day we drove west to Deadwood, outside Rapid City. We stopped at the tourist attraction Wall Drug for a chocolate doughnut and the sprawling business did not disappoint between its pharmacy museum and vast western wear offerings. Once in Rapid City, we loved finding 25+ statues of presidents on street corners throughout the city. Jimmy Carter seemed to be one of the happiest looking. We also enjoyed an art gallery and bookstore called Prairie Edge which featured an enormous amount of Native American art, clothing, drums, literature and culture. The image on the top right shows a small selection of the gallery. Seeing each piece or browsing the vast library of Native American literature, history and resources saddened us as we were reminded of how invisible Native Americans remain in our country. 

After a night in Deadwood, we traversed the Black Hills (also called the Badlands) of South Dakota and found that while smaller, their beauty really did rival Yellowstone's or Zion's. Driving through the national park with it's tunnels, cliffs, and high rocks had us both mystified. The region truly brought the most awe-inspiring and magnificent views of our entire journey.

Also magnificent was visiting Crazy Horse, the in-progress memorial being built in rock in the badlands to the Native American Lakota warrior Crazy Horse. When finished, the memorial is expected to resemble the marble depicted below on the bottom left. The entire museum was dedicated to Native American preservation and was beautiful to see and learn from.

Also beautiful was Mount Rushmore! The intricacy of the carving and the nature surrounding it was gorgeous.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Driving West Part I!

Hi from Wyoming!
I thought South Dakota was beautiful -- but Wyoming is just as majestic. My Mom and I have finished six days of driving at the moment, traveled a little over 2,400 miles west and despite how tiring it all is, we're seeing so much beauty. I didn't expect how exhausting driving and navigating would be, and it's tricky to stay awake in the evenings, but I've been reminded through traveling that it was the unpredictability of each day in Scotland, the scenery and people and new experiences that caused me to write and blog here, and it's time to resurrect travel writing!

So far: 2 rainbows (New York and Wyoming) spotted. A billion cows. Many horses. Countless deer. A bunny. A mouse. 
Departing New Hampshire! 

Vermont was it's usual beautiful self and New York was wide but pretty. We spent our first night at an Airbnb in Vernon, New York, in the middle of the state. We loved the spacious backyard pictured above. 

We also LOVED Seneca Falls. The gorgeous and moving museum is part of the national park system (freeeee!) and can be absorbed in about an hour. The original church where the 1848 convention for women's rights occurred is next door and pictured on the top right.

A Falls trip that was less planned was Niagra Falls. I like to think I know geography, but somehow I didn't know we'd be within 30 miles of it. It didn't feel right to miss it. The falls were beautiful, enormous, and refreshing (thanks to the mist!).

From there, we swung through a small slice of Pennsylvania and stayed in Ashtabula, Ohio on Lake Erie. 

The next day had us sailing across the midwest through states neither of us had visited before. Corn fields and flatness dominated the landscape. In Indiana, I knew the University of Notre Dame in South Bend was close by. We ate our lunch by the enormous Alumni stadium but found that as visitors to the campus passing through, not too much was accessible. We battled Chicago traffic by going far around the city, but found it still took a few hours at rush hour on a Friday afternoon to clear the outskirts of the city. We stayed in Rockton, IL a few miles from the Wisconsin border that evening. 
More to come soon!