I was told the other day I am a Caligander. I think that is funny, and true, which makes it satirical I suppose. I had no idea when I moved from California to Michigan in 1989 what life would hold. I was in for culture shock in a variety of ways. I learned hard lessons and gained experiences and knowledge that blessed and challenged me both.
Until I moved to Michigan, I didn't know I did everything in a rush. I pushed hard to quickly get through chores, exercise, shopping, planning, even recreational activities. Not long after I moved to Michigan somebody asked me why I was always in such a hurry. I was surprised to hear that I was. I didn't know. I think that was a Cali-culture characteristic. Except for driving on the freeway, life in California moved faster than life in Michigan. I grew up always in a hurry to get to the next step, the next activity, the next whatever. When I was a child, my southern grandparents frequently asked me to repeat myself. They claimed they couldn't understand me because I talked so fast. I learned to slow down in Michigan and that was good for me.
As Captain Obvious knows - the weather in California and Michigan are different. There were two kinds of snow I had experienced while growing up in California - there was one, yes, I said ONE afternoon in my entire childhood in which light rain sprinkles changed into snowflakes for about fifteen minutes. My sisters and I danced in the snow and hoped to make a snowman, but we were disappointed to see the snowflakes melt the instant they touched the ground. It left a lasting impression on me, though.
We lived in the San Gabriel Valley, and the other snow I experienced was the snow which fell on the mountaintops in the surrounding San Gabriel Mountain range. Once, when I was a child, my dad drove us up the mountain in his pickup truck. We filled the bed with snow and brought it down into the valley and spread it all over our front yard. We were the cool kids in the neighborhood that day! I seriously had no idea what living in snow country was really like. God surely protected me and the other drivers on the road the first Winter I lived in Michigan. Who knew it was possible to put the brakes on and not stop?
I didn't know tree leaves could do anything more than dry up and fall off. They actually turn amazing shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and green! There are certain roads I love to drive on during fall just so I can be covered with a canopy of brilliant colors. I love that my kids have grown up knowing this great beauty and treasure of nature.
I never knew one could experience pure, overwhelming joy at the sound of frogs waking up in early Spring. It is the sweetest music to my ears - because it is the sound of life, and it never ceases to fill me with excitement and happiness. I literally pull my car over with my windows down whenever I pass an area in which the frogs are particularly vocal.
I didn’t know I could experience the many spectacular blessings Michigan has to offer and yet still miss my California favorites. I love the desert. There is nothing quite the same as looking into the endless night sky over the desert and watching shooting stars galore. I have always loved desert hiking - with the hot wind blowing and filling my hair with sand I wouldn’t even discover until my late-night shower. Even today, I love looking out over the desert and gazing at the sand and rocks and cactus that seem to go on forever. And I especially love the blistering heat of a desert afternoon when everything is still and quiet and the sun is shining intense and bright.
I didn’t know I would miss the mountains, although I never liked the drive up or down. But hiking around the hills and valleys and looking for streams and unknown niches was one of my favorite activities. I loved to stand at the top of the mountain and look out over the valley below and wonder about the lives of the people down there. I loved to gather pine cones, although I had zero ability to actually make something out of them, so I usually put them back.
And then there was the Pacific Ocean. The salty wind and air invigorated and refreshed me. I could stay at the beach for hours without ever getting bored or tired of looking out over the ocean and hiking along the walkways. I loved swimming out further and further, letting the waves carry me where they willed. Sometimes I would become disoriented and would turn to look at the shore, trying to find where my family was situated, and I would discover the current had carried me far away from them. I was always mystified by how that happened, because it felt like I was just jumping up and down in the same place. I miss the ocean.
Both California and Michigan have captured pieces of my heart, each in their own special way. Caligander? Yes, that is an accurate word to describe me.