My Southern California Home is like the gentrified Texas Hill Country
Posted by Admin SATXProperty on Saturday, July 16th, 2011 at 11:29pm.
Land of the Lotus - Eaters
By Julia Hayden
I've been back for three or four days in the place which - if you bend down and squint sideways at it - is the place that I came from. That is, back-country Southern California; not the glitzy, glittery and glam 90210/Hollywierd/Sunset Boulevard So-Cal, but the other part of it. This is the hills and horse-country part, of steep hills and seasonal creeks, of black sage, monkey-flower, and shaggy-barked eucalyptus, of citrus and avocado groves, where granite out-croppings stick out of the thin soil like half-buried bones, and hawks wheel overhead.
The people who live there have horses, goats and cows the way ordinary suburbanites have cats, dogs and parakeets. In a lot of ways, the place where my parents built a house thirty years ago is rather like the gentrified Texas Hill Country near our San Antonio home ... the part where there are three to five acre properties, with rambling houses of the owner's own choosing, adorned with barns and sheds, paddocks and horse corrals and usually a horse trailer, an RV and a boat on a trailer ... and the owner could be very well-off, with a high-paying job in San Diego, family money ... or just scratching out a living on various kinds of paying work. This part of So-Cal even favors pickup trucks and cowboy boots ... and there is even a scattering of Indian reservations nearby. It's semi-rural, hobby-farm and truck garden agricultural ... with just enough of an overlay of artistic pursuits, and viticulture to keep it interestingly bohemian.
I've had to revert to my old sort of exercise - walking and hiking, since the mailbox and the newspapers are delivered to a box nearly half a mile away ... and moreover, at least half the way there is unpaved road. Yes, directions to my parent's house does include the phrase "turn right, onto the dirt road." The sign saying "End of County Maintained Road" also features prominently, as well as the conviction among first-time visitors that the winding and rutted dirt road is about to peter out into a set of parallel wheel tracks through the brush at any time at all, leaving them lost and stranded in the howling wilderness somewhere in the higher hills overlooking the valley of the Guajito.
Even the mail and the newspapers don't make it, any closer than the range of a dozen mailboxes nailed to a pair of sturdy beams, just where the paved road used to stop. So, that is my chore in the morning, first thing - while the quail scurry through the undergrowth, peeping frantically; my father used to throw out a handful of bird seed for them, every morning.
I should remember to do this again, since there is a half-full sack of it, in the shed. He and my mother had feeders for the hummingbirds as well, and hedges full of brilliant red flowers that they adore. I hear them also, in the taller trees - the whirring sound of them darting from branch to branch, and squeaking like a rusty hinge; tiny as they are, I don't think there is any bird in a worse temper more often than a humming bird.
Unlike the Hill Country, the most beautiful time in So-Cal is now; the rains have brought out lush growths of grass, as emerald green as anything in Oz or Ireland. It is so beautiful now, it's easy to see why people stay against all obstacles, and why my parents came here ... to build their house on the last edge of the hills over the Guajito, where every morning is uniquely beautiful.
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