I grew up an Air Force brat, but our moves were mostly within the state of Indiana. I spent some time in Texas as a child and for the purpose of military training after high school, but lived the first eight years of my adult life living on the Florida Panhandle. With the exception of these last seven years, I have spent nearly my entire life on the Eastern side of the United States. (I might add that Germany is very like the area around Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania in terms of landscape. While the people, architecture, and culture of Germany are all very different from home, the topography of the land is quite similar to areas I know and love.)
Since our arrival at this location, I have found the West Coast of the United States completely and utterly foreign to everything I know. Instead of the slow roll of hills leading to the rounded peaks that I am used to, the land leaps from flat valleys to high, rugged ranges. The coastline doesn't meekly sink beneath the ocean waves here; it towers defiantly above, refusing to surrender. This side of the country has a wildness--a lawlessness--to it that the East Coast lacks; or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that the East Coast is simply more tame than is the West.
Despite all that, I do occasionally forget that we aren't in Kansas anymore. We live at a moderate altitude; our home is only around 1000 feet above sea level. We have a little bit of worry about mudslides but they would be more nuisance than anything. There have been two huge snow dumps less than an hour from us but we have yet to see a single flake here at the house. In our quiet little neighborhood, it is easy to forget the wild that surrounds us.
A couple weeks ago we had a free day with no plans. While in Germany this family learned to take advantage of days like that; a plan-free day meant a roadtrip was in order! In that vein, I started looking for a place we could go. It occurred to me that we could drive to Oregon. I have always wanted to go, have never been, and the border is just a little over two hours away: perfect!
Here at our house? It was a little overcast. It was raining off and on. That was it. It seemed like a great day to just drive. Want to know what I found out while I was looking for a place to go?
An hour from us a woman went missing while ski-boarding with friends. (Unfortunately she did not survive.) A grandmother camping with her family was killed when a tree fell over onto their tent. (Super soggy ground combined with strong winds is what caused the tree to fall.) This was also about an hour away. When looking at possible routes heading north I discovered that many roads (including some Interstates) were closed due to fears of avalanche activity.
We ended up staying home. We just aren't experienced or prepared enough for this sort of environment yet. Especially not with four kids. I've come to realize that if we want to drive anywhere any time soon (like, say, before April), it might be best to plan trips that take us further west or south. North and east are just not a great idea right now!
It's disconcerting to know that there are such extreme things happening such a short distance from us but it is also awe-inspiring. I'm being reminded how much bigger the world is than what I could possibly imagine. I'm relearning my love for nature and remembering my place in the big picture. I am frequently overcome with the desire to go out and see or do something new. I would never have guessed, but living here in California is every bit the adventure that living in Germany was. And I am so, so glad we came.