I am starting anew yet again, this time closer to my roots. Not France, or England or even North Carolina, but California. Now, what I see outside the west window of my study is a lush Jacaranda tree, not the ancient stone wall in front of the chestnut, fir and beech trees of my 17th century house. My condo here is 8 years old, hardly enough time to settle in and get the kinks out.
The north window frames a view of the San Gabriel mountains, folded and dark against a bright sky. In the space of only a few miles this range juts up from Claremont’s elevation, 350 m. (1,150 ft), to the range’s highest peak, Mount San Antonio, at 3,609 m. (10,068 ft.) . However, most people around here refer to Mt San Antonio as Mt. Baldy, as very little vegetation grows up there, and you can see its sharp, chalky slopes from several vantage points in the valley. In winter it is often capped with snow, although the average temperature here is 17.22 C (63F).http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claremont,_California
The near view to the north is spiked with eucalyptus trees, a common sight in these parts, along with several varieties of palm and oak and elm. In fact, there are 24, 187 trees in Claremont. I don’t know who counted them. Not me. Some of the oak and elm are very old. I am pretty sure the elms are not native to this area, and the oaks are live oaks, not the UK variety with trunks 5 feet thick which are hundreds of years old. They are scrappier and shorter, with small, round prickly leaves which have a pungent, dusty odor.
I live a short walk from the village, as I did in Shere and in Tourrettes, but although it is a lot bigger, with a population of around 35,000, as opposed to 3,359 for Shere, I am nevertheless getting to know the local shop keepers and restaurateurs. I often run into familiar faces, as I did in Shere, and in Fayence before that, one of the greatest benefits of a village.
There are several colleges here under the umbrella of Claremont University Consortium, and together they cover several academic disciplines.http://www.claremont.edu. But the permanent population is a healthy mix of ages, with enough old people around to make me feel that I belong, too.
My home town, Santa Ana, is 31 miles from here, but after 50 or so years it is barely recognizable. The population is now 78% hispanic. Most signs there, and here in Claremont, too, are in both English and Spanish. Elegant, as well as not so elegant malls and housing developments have replaced the sugar beet fields, farmland, and pastures of my youth. .http://www.ci.santa-ana.ca.us/facts/
And yet, I find my old home in the quality of the sun early in the morning, when it is just beginning to warm the air. I find it in these October afternoons, when it is hot standing in the sun, but chilly as you pass into a shadow. I find it in the fog curling around the trees, then burning off by 11:00 am; and in the spicy fragrance of eucalyptus’ and pepper trees. But the fragrance of orange blossoms emanating from the groves which used to cover acres and acres of land is missing. They have been replaced by homes and businesses to accommodate the people who still pour into California from both the east of the US and from the south, from Mexico and Central America.
We have had two days of stormy rain and wind, now over. The sky arches blue and clear over the valley and at 9:00 AM the temperature is about 13C. A high of 17C is predicted for today, going back up to 27C by Friday.
There is more to life than weather, as I repeatedly said when I lived in Shere, but in such a transition as this, with many days of missing my old life and coping with creating a new one, it must be said that it helps.