Ten Years in California

photo by steve newvine

photo by steve newvine

The picture here is of a miniature snowman I made one afternoon.  A coworker had returned to Merced from the higher elevations in Mariposa with his pick-up truck box filled with snow.  I took home a bucket of it, and fashioned a small reminder of the snow I left behind to come out west.

This month marks the tenth anniversary of when my wife and I left upstate New York for California.  For the past ten years, I have worked, played, and lived in the Golden State.

The move has been marked by giving up a snow shovel for an electric lawn mower, donating boxes of winter clothes while adapting to the new normal of golf shirts, and removing the color white from most of my images of the outdoors in winter.

Thinking about January 2004 brings about clear pictures from a life that has been about change.  My wife and I moved frequently in the first years of our marriage.  But when children blessed our home, we stayed rooted in one community for twenty years. 

The move to California actually took about six months with my wife handling the sale of our home and coordinating the packing while I started up in a new job in the Central Valley.  I flew back to our New York home two or three times over that interim time span.  I did my first ever red eye flight during that period.  I continue that practice most of the time when I fly back east for visits.

We bought a house within months of moving to California, and sold it just two years later when I accepted the job that brought us to Merced.  We missed the collapse of the housing market by just a few months.

We have lived in Merced since late 2006.  It was right about that time I decided to put down some of the stories about my family and friends I knew growing up in upstate New York.  Eight years and seven books later, I consider myself a writer who thankfully, doesn’t have to rely on book sales to make a living.

We remain connected to upstate New York with annual visits to family and friends.  Sadly, two of my friends passed away in 2013.  But happily, I can look back and cherish the efforts I made to visit both over the past several years.

The color white I mention in the second paragraph is about the snow that was left behind when we moved to California.  Now, the only snow we see it comes when we head up to the mountains or when we see a vehicle that returned from the mountains with some snow still hanging on until it all melts away.  The mini snowman I made lasted about two hours.  

Also absent from the California color palette is the rich green we knew in the northeast United States.  With water in good supply, the summer leaves were deep in green hues.  Irrigation for most agricultural enterprises I knew in upstate New York was handled by Mother Nature.  That’s not the case in California.  Read a newspaper just about any day and you’ll find a story or two about water supplies, diversions, dams, allocations to the coastal regions, and agricultural needs.

It’s been a good ten years in our adopted community of the Central Valley.  There are so many good things about life in Merced that I can’t do the subject justice.  But I am grateful for the farmer’s markets, the alphabetized and numbered streets, UC Merced and Merced College, and reasonable weather most of the year.  I could do without bad air days, some freeway drivers, and bans of plastic bags in the Bay Area.  

It’s been a good ten years.  Life changing in some respects, adventure almost always, and very few dull moments.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced.