Due to inclement weather and road conditions, all West Ada Schools in Idaho are closed today; which means, I am not teaching today. They do not have snow days like this in California. At least not in the Central Valley where I was born, raised and taught for four years.
“Poor people in California! They are missing out on all this fun!” says my daughter Analise over her homemade blueberry oatmeal at breakfast.
We are held captive by the snow’s steady fall and the accumulating inches growing into feet. Growing up in the Central Valley, I never saw snow unless my family traveled to Yosemite and that was only a few times. One year it snowed in Merced. That was too long ago.
I miss California. When I speak of California, I only have the Central Valley in view because it is to me what the rough South is for other writers; it is my world, for nothing can ever stand against born and raised. However, when I do feel estranged from my home state, I say to myself, “Miss California? Are you out of your mind?” I start to list everything wrong with the valley: the water crisis, high unemployment, crime, poor air quality, and thanks to Forbes, a notoriety for being one of the most miserable places to live.
In spite of these imperfections, I am loyal and my allegiance remains. I have Stockholm syndrome. I am fully aware of how bad the valley is and how its mismanagement and dysfunction is an abusive lash beating and wearing its resident-captives down. I hoped the valley would get better the way a battered wife deludes herself into thinking the little goodness in her husband may one day overcome the cruelty causing him to smash her with his fists. I stayed as long as I could.
But nothing can be done about my affections for the valley because of the circumstance of place. Buccal smear the inside of my cheek. There are no DNA traces of my father and mother there unless you count the chicken processing plant they have worked in most of their lives and the marriage I hoped would have lasted; there are traces of school hallways I walked down, quinceañeras I waltzed in, handcuffs I wore, blood I spilled, a teaching career born and traces of a little brown boy leaping off the pier at Lake Yosemite, crashing into the water, intentionally submerging himself because it is enchanting to look upon a bright, blurry sky from below the water.
I doubt I will ever be able to speak from my heart about any other place not only because there I find my origins, family and friends but also because I feel I have left things undone. I should have done more. I should have been adventurous and scoured the state for money and gold hidden by Joaquin Murrieta. I should have trekked the John Muir Trail. I should have made the Point Reyes Lighthouse more than a day trip. I would go back and break into the lighthouse lens room and watch the sunset and sunrise. I would go back and walk more of the Pacific Coast.
I would go back a giant, visiting the San Andreas Fault and running my hand over the sutured earth, feeling it in a way nobody else could. I would stare down into the fault and defy it. I would mock it. It would not make me feel my own insignificance. I should have been like Huell Howser, traversing the state like a tramp with deep pockets, becoming intimate with all of California’s gold and not just the valley’s.
For now, all the adventure I could have experienced in California, I could experience in Idaho. There is so much I have not seen or done even after living here three years. I will make a list of places we’ll go and things we’ll do. I will fight against my recluse tendencies and seize adventure. Only none of that is happening anytime soon. Not with this snow.