I missed California. So much so, that at the last minute I had booked a ticket home for the holidays. My parents were elated, “Ay, que bien que vas a estar aqui para Navidad!” Mi mama exclaimed with unbridled enthusiasm, the kind she reserves only for her children’s returns or successes in life.
I would be home nearly two weeks. Barely enough time, it turns out. During my time home though I was able to take a hike with friends on New Year’s Day. Setting out with what we had, our gear varying a bit, I was excited to get back into some green space that would stretch farther than simply a block or two. We were in the Peninsula, setting out on the PG&E trail at the Rancho San Antonio Space Preserve. I had never been there before, but was expecting at least to see the familiar species of trees and plants I was accustomed to.
We set off with snacks in our bags, sandwiches bought before hand and water. As we ascended the trail, a loop, which was 8 miles in total, I relished in the trees which surrounded me. As I hung back with a friend of mine who kept a similar pace, I smiled. I remembered some of the questions I had posed back in London just before I had left. What was it about nature that drew me to it back again? What were my own definitions and boundaries of it and why did I feel so different in a space like this, as opposed to say, a city park?
At this point, I was interrupted in my thoughts. “Glad to be back home?” my friend had asked. “Yeah…” I said languidly, almost as if waiting for someone to interrupt me again. “Yeah. Definitely. I just…I missed this.” I said, looking around at the hanging limbs with foliage, casting spiders of shadows across the trail, allowing sun to peak through every now and again. “The smell…the trees…how massive they are.” I looked ahead and clearly identified Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak) and Quercus lobata (Valley Oak), two trees I hold very dear to my heart.
As I was finishing my thoughts, the trail wound round and opened up to display the views of the canyons below and the ascent yet to come. Also among the view, clear electrical towers. I frowned a bit and thought about how the towers marred the overall beauty of it all. It was then that it clicked a bit for me. I tend to have a sort of romanticized view of nature. Many of us do, but how could I not? Thinking back to my first experiences in nature, it was among stark peaks of stone, gushing waterfalls, regal summers sprinkled with starry nights which veiled the dark pools above. Within that image, there were flashes of roaring flames from campfires, the comfort of the warmth amidst the freezing cold and the bonding that occurred because there was no reception and no smart phones back then to distract us.
Nature and subsequently, green space, for me, is also a reaching back of my own history. It is filled with nostalgia. One of the things I dreamed about doing while on the plane from London to San Francisco, was the chance to see and smell Sequiodendron giganteum (Giant Sequioa). It reminded me of my past, it reminded me of home.
Yet, here it was. Development and technology, interrupting that flow of the mind. One of the most iconic figures, in my mind, of progress. The present, the future. In all honesty, I have always held some trepidations about the future. Growing up in a large family, there was always a sense of some insecurity around the future. Would there be enough? Would we all be ok? Would I get what I wanted? The dynamics with many people involved could change in an instant, for better and for worse.
In the end, I was left to ponder these things a bit further. I was beginning to unravel some of the truths behind my own definitions of green space and why it has played such a monumental role in my life experiences.
As I was urged onwards and upwards toward the top, just like the first day of the New Year, I continued on with deep a breath, determined to continue to find my own truths to these ideas…
Con mucho amor…