02 September 2008

Making the Move

I never planned to move. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me once the kids had grown and my husband was gone. I just realized, after a lifetime of working and doing what was expected of me, that I was ready for something different, but what? I tend to be a planner, but this one time I rode the current of spontaneity and decided to relieve myself of winter and try something else on for size. I rented my house in CT and moved for three months to a little town I’d seen only twice in my life, but remembered well: Laguna Beach. My friend Ed called it a cross between Westport CT and Provincetown MA and that's a pretty good description. I didn’t even know about MTV or the OC at the time, but I knew that this town of craggy shoreline and voluptuous hillsides appealed to me. I have a fondness for topography and uneven edges. I like what the locals fondly refer to as shabby chic.

The first time I drove down the winding access road that insulates the town from the noise and grit of the freeway, I marveled that only seconds removed from a 10-lane highway the canyon takes over and you might be in Colorado or Utah for all the similarity to what most of us think of as Southern California. Brown in summer, green in winter, exactly the opposite of where I’d come from and only one of many fascinations. I was immediately charmed. No longer tethered from the type-A life of the East Coast, I learned to move a little slower, talk a little slower and savor much more of the natural environs. It was 2005, the winter of the rains, but even so, more often than not the sun broke through and the sky seemed bigger and brighter to me, and that Pacific Ocean was always there, a guidepost - one can never get lost because the Pacific is always south/west and mountains east. The ocean is always a slightly different shade of blue, sometimes churning, sometimes nearly flat as a lake, and perpetually enthralling for those who love water and love the color blue, as I do. Solitude those first three months was at times oppressive, and yet didn't damper my enthusiasm for the place. In fact, I discovered some comfort in the solitary life, with the environs of this lovely town a constant and true companion.

Three months later I returned to the beautiful suburb of New York City that I called home, happy to reconnect to my wonderful friends, but found myself longing for outdoor cafĂ©’s and hikes in the hills and those remarkable sunsets at day's end. Truly, if you had ever asked me that I might find myself in middle age living in southern California, I would have asked you what you were smoking. I lived in San Francisco for a few months after college but it wasn’t a good time for me then, so I returned to NYC. All through the years, California called to me, despite my life-long love affair with NYC. I thought I might find myself someday in Berkeley, a wonderful place for literarati’s and intellectuals and social advocates, and also people who love great food. Or maybe Sausalito, that patch of land that shares some of the characteristics of this town. I spent a week-end in Santa Cruz once, another interesting coastal community, and of course have always marveled at Big Sur and Carmel and the endlessly hip and blustery towns further north, but I’m here on the Southern shore now, and I’ve found a way to make a life, a good life. Slowly but steadily making friends and becoming more and more familiar with the surrounds. Just last month I visited all the people I love most in CT and NYC and hated to leave, but as I drove back into the modest bustle of summertime Laguna Beach and caught sight of sunlight glimmering on the water, I felt that I had come home.

If you have even an inkling that there’s a place out there that might suit you better than where you are, or delight you in some new way, take the risk. A great way to get in touch with yourself, and who you might wish to become in the later stage of life. I’m not talking about retirement, I’m talking about simply another way of life. What’s that platitude? Never too late to become the person you want to be. I would say it’s never too late to adopt a lifestyle that you’d like to live. If nothing else, you challenge your own senses and perspective and shake yourself out of the inertia where so many of us too often reside forever. I prefer Laguna Beach.

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