Every year, I fly home to Yorba Linda, California for Christmas.
The golden sun sets melt into the ocean beyond the horizon.
I breathe in the smell of California: a mix of rain, cement, and dust in a sun-soaked land.
I walk through the doorway I’ve walked through hundreds if not thousands of times.
I clear a space in my old room-turned-storage.
We bring another chair to the crowded dinner table.
We sit and eat and talk and laugh and argue and soak each other in.
We hug and pat and plan and bicker and photograph.
I go on long walks in the neighborhood where I became a human being.
Sometimes I go alone, sometimes I bring the dogs.
Eucalyptus hedgerows are all that remain of the orange and avocado groves that my house replaced.
Each street, corner, house tells a different story about friends, enemies, fiascos, near misses, mischief and boredom from the endless Southern California summers of my childhood.
Places have changed, signs updated, businesses changed, shaggy waste places developed.
Waste places that used to be my own tiny wildernesses.
Places where I would stalk lizards and slithering snakes.
Places I feared cougars, and caught glimpses of skittish coyotes.
Now, I walk those places in silence.
I watch birds: circling hawks, gliding turkey vultures, warbling warblers…
I speak the names of the few trees I know, and stare at the ones I don’t.
I relax and think, read and plan.
In Yorba Linda, I occupy a space that is not now but once was home, familiar but uncomfortable.
Like a prom suit, church shoes, a punk jacket, a raccoon skin cap.
I find stashes of old books, photographs, projects, junk in this house,
The container that my first 20 years filled to the brim,
Then spilled out into the world: the Dominican Republic, Utah, Connecticut, Utah, and now Vancouver, BC.
But every year, I fly home to Yorba Linda, California for Christmas.