Return to California

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detail of “California Storm”


California Storm

The weather forecast was not good for the day that my brother Harry was to drive my son Simon and me from Seattle to Carmel. The trip was uneventful until the first moments over the border from Oregon took us into the snowy whirling darkness of the Siskiyou Pass.

The mountains were hidden by slush & darkness and we could only describe memories of them to Simon. For me this was disorienting, remembering journeys of 40 years ago on sun-snowy days, Mount Shasta and the Sikiyous towering for miles.

On this occasion we were caught for three hours in a flashing reptile tail of lorries crawling slowly, their underbellies lumbered by tire chains. We expected to be turned back as we had no chains, but we were OK.  We arrived in storm swept Redding hours later than planned for a brief night’s sleep.

The wind howled all night. The heated pool & hot tub had whitecaps as the wind blew fiercely over the surface.

The next day’s drive from Redding to Carmel was a permanent carwash deluge at 60 miles per hour.  Scary moments when visibility was replaced by faith in the twin red dots of the car or lorry in front.

Harry’s skill with driving was formidable.

The experience of the storm on my return to California was a reflection of my inner view of Sacramento and the valley when I was younger.

The valley was endless, flat, bleak, wet & windy.  This horrid place that literally flooded back memories of my family’s emigration here in 1957.  I was supposed to make this my home at the age of 11.

Scotland’s hills and sea were to be in the past; formed into a longing that never ceased even after I moved back to Arran in 1975.

The drive from Sacramento to San Francisco was even worse. From the Bay Bridge, the city was invisible until we were in it.  There were fallen trees & tree branches everywhere, the smell of eucalyptus bizarrely filling the air with perfume from crushed branches.

There was obviously no power anywhere. When we arrived at my niece Caitlin’s apartment near Golden Gate Park, we discovered that she and most of the city had been without power since early morning. We didn’t know it at that point, but mountain passes and the interstate highway had all been closed to traffic just after we went through.

Rain continued to lash down all the way from San Francisco to Carmel. We arrived to scenes of devastation, fallen trees, cars & roofs crushed by huge branches and rescue vehicles everywhere trying to restore power. Harry’s house had no damage and the power was back by the time we arrived.
We had been very, very lucky.

copyright Lynn Gray Ross 2009
all rights reserved