Things are settling at home. There is still a heap of boxes in the garage filled with unimportant things, like the tarot cards that I don’t quite dare throw away from the drawer in my bedside table. I have thrust so many of my high school hopes and dreams into them that if they were not full of mysticism before they must certainly be filled with some enigmatic thing now. Most of the walls have pictures leaned against them, upside down, waiting for nail and hammer. Due to the many incompetencies of the only provider in town, we don’t have internet. But we are mostly moved in to our new house. I can make tea on my stove with the vibrant blue insides. I have mowed the lawn, feeling the machine vibrate all the way up my arms and breathing in the green as I push the mower over the tufts. There are teal curtains in my bedroom, and my lavender office is my favorite room of the house.
I have been homesick for Claremont, though. I am in town every day for work, and yet it seems so distant. Perhaps it is the waffling Brian and I do at dinner time.
“Do you want to go out to eat?” I ask.
“I don’t know. I guess we could wander around downtown until something looks good…”
In Claremont, I could say “Sacca’s,” or “How about Dr. Grubbs?” or “Pizza n’ Such?”
In Redlands it is all foreign, and it has gone from feeling like vacation to not quite feeling like home.
Until this weekend, I thought the reason that it doesn’t quite feel like home because it is so hot in Redlands. Brian and I used to wander through the neighborhood to the Claremont Village for ice cream some nights. I was looking forward to moonlit strolls through the orange groves near our house in Redlands, but a wall of hair-frizzing heat attacks anyone brave enough to open the door, even in the evenings.
There were summer rainstorms this weekend and it made the world a lot cooler. The first was a hot sprinkling of alligator drops that brought a sweet maple-syrup smell to the air. Like when Brian used to visit his grandparents in Arizona and it would rain on the desert, he told me. I threw on my grandmother’s raincoat, Brian wore a black coat and carried a black umbrella, and we walked across campus, the hot drops still falling from the sky. There are so many nooks and crannies that I know we didn’t get into even half of them. Still, we rounded the corner of the art building to see a rusted abstract man standing amid the branches of a gray, leafy bush. There was a ceramic elephant holding a red canvas umbrella near the faculty offices. There is a building where the red shingles look like scales and Athena’s owl looks down from the middle of the porch.
Our Saturday walk was so wonderful that we decided to go again on Sunday. A black cloud loomed in the distance, but I didn’t care. A drenching and a lamppost are the only barriers between my Gene Kelly impersonation, and sometimes not even both are necessary. I love being drenched as long as I don’t have to sit in the damp clothes for hours afterward.
“We aren’t going that far,” I said.
“Let’s go to that park two blocks over,” said Brian. “The one with the big slides.”
It began to rain as we stepped onto the grass in the park. The rain was colder, coming in gusts, and the languid quality of the drops was gone.
“It’s raining!” I yelled, and I did bell kicks up the path. My shoulders became speckled darker with wet.
“Yeah, I know,” he said. And then the sky rumbled.
We took refuge in a tower above a violent yellow twisty slide. The roof leaked. The sky opened up as soon as we sat down, and showered buckets. The sky flashed.
“Did you see it? Count!” I said.
So we sat by the slide and counted how far the storm was.
“It’s getting closer,” said Brian.
“What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know, it doesn’t seem to be letting up. We’re only a couple of blocks from home.”
We climbed back down the playground equipment. I was wet through before my feet had even left the metal ladder to touch the sand below. The paths were all now rivulets of water flowing down to the wash at the base of the park. My breath steamed up my glasses, so I took them off and saw the rushing water and the puddles like an impressionist painting. It was tough work, picking a path through the rushing streams of mud and froth that ran across our path every few feet. There was no avoiding them, and so I waded through. The stairs near the Greek Theater became a waterfall, and they poured water up to my knees. We were just deciding if it was a good idea to attempt to cross the bridge over the wash when public safety pulled up in a white SUV.
“Want a ride?” the gentleman with cop mustache and graying temples asked.
“Yes please!” we said.
So we piled into the back of his car, trying unsuccessfully not to pool water on everything, and he drove us the last two blocks home.
We changed into dry clothes and cuddled up on the couch, listening to the rain still falling behind the windows. I realized that, although Redlands doesn’t yet feel like home, at no other time in my life has the California landscape been so present. Vibrant, graffiti covered freight trains race me down the freeway on my way to work every morning. I round the bend to exit my neighborhood and there is a row of palms sheltering the orange grove that we traipsed through the other day. In the distance on three sides, brown hills recede to purple lumps beneath the sky. The sharp smell of eucalyptus is in the air. Roses bloom outside my front door.
“You know,” I said to Brian. “As stressful as this moving stuff has been, the living in Redlands part has been pretty magical.”
“Yes it has,” he agreed.