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California: bold as love

2014 December 2
by Rachel Turiel


They call this winter in California. Also, blacktail deer deep in the Eucalyptus off to the left.

1) Foraging. We’re cruising down some tree-stacked street in Berkeley when Dan calls out, “STOP!” It’s persimmons this time. A stout tree loaded with shiny orange fruit wearing papery green collars. Dan gathers five off the ground and pops them in a bag. The last stop was for the fondling of lemons yellowing on a tree, before that: a handful of bay leaves (currently simmering back home in a batch of bone broth), rosemary sprigs cut from a veritable shrub that is more landscaping than food, and a small collection of what Dan claimed were raw olives. They call this winter in Northern California (in a drought, no less), but to us it’s a wonderland of sensory delights.


Persimmons smuggled home.

2) The Ocean. Pelicans and dolphins and sand foot massages. Pure magic.



3) Grandparents. Every morning at 6:30 am Col and Rose eject themselves from our bed and bounce down the hall to my parents’ bedroom for snuggles. Giggles follow in four tempos. I watch how my parents approach the kids, how they’re exempt from the agonies of parental worry (those freaking times tables!) and can devote themselves entirely to amusement and appreciation.

4) Turbo-charged. This city is fast and busy and people drink opaque coffee by day and plug in their electric cars at night. There is curbside compost pick up and more accents and skin tones at one neighborhood park than exist in our entire county. People seem to love being able to get the very best of everything at all hours. It seems less about DIY and more about extreme availability. (You can buy bone broth!) People line up out the door for the iconic Cheeseboard Pizza and Philz coffee. For dinner you can choose between authentic Cambodian, Laotian or Vietnamese food (and of course Japanese, Thai…does anyone even eat Chinese food anymore?)



5) Kids meeting their needs. Col spends most of his home-time at the living room window, binoculars pressed to glass, watching ships on the San Francisco Bay. At the Berkeley Farmer’s Market, Rose spends her own money on a turbo-charged artisan peppermint patty and a $5 container of pomegranate seeds. I tell her we could buy two pomegranates and seed them ourselves for the same price. “It’s my money and this is what I want to buy,” she announces, pleased to be able to afford choosing luxury over frugality.

6) Reckoning. We visit with my high school friends and use the dim power of our collective memories to recall life on the cusp of the 90’s. I had almost forgot how things were, how risk-taking and adventurous we were. How we said yes 99% of the time, even at 2am. How my friend (I’ll call her Siana) could proficiently steer her hulking American car with her knees while she rolled a joint, how we once drove to Mexico as an afterthought (did we even have a map?), how we ingested a kaleidoscope of substances, had dramatic fallings out with boyfriends surpassed in drama only by the making up. We had a grassroots social network more connected than any of today’s social media. We felt at home in nature without knowing a single species name, and equally comfortable taking the bus at midnight. We unselfconsciously sang and danced everywhere. We were bold and fearless (even when we shouldn’t have been). We believed in peace and taking care of each other and “processing” our lives as an activity, and seeing the goodness in people (though were suspicious of Republicans, even though we hadn’t yet met any). We attended political protests, bought weed from high school security guards and believed things would remain the same.

cali2Berkeley farmers market. My mom says: In December things slow down, we only have: broccoli, lettuce, spinach, onions, potatoes, beets, herbs, kale, bok choi, radishes, carrots, cabbage, winter squash…

7) Coming home. We drive north from the Albuquerque airport, listening to scratchy mixed tapes two decades old. The sagebrush carpet rolls out forever. Wind catalyzes bony tumbleweeds. The kids whip backseat boredom into chaos. I’m thinking about high school, about who I was and where she is now, how to bring a little of her back to Colorado. These days I start power-yawning by 6pm and Dan, riding next to me, is the steadiest human I’ve ever known. I tell the kids, “This is one of the best songs in the world. Listen and tell me what it’s about.” It’s Jimi Hendrix, Bold as Love. I have no clue what it’s about, I just want them to be quiet for 3 complete minutes. Col listens carefully. Rose says, “it’s tooooo hard.” “It’s about love,” I tell them. “And about being bold. And I don’t know, loving your boldness.” That seems to sum up and answer everything for me in the moment. “I don’t understand. When can we have a snack?” Rose asks. And we drive home.

15 Responses leave one →
  1. Andrea permalink
    December 2, 2014

    oh that sunshine! i put my face close to the computer to get some second hand vitamin D.

  2. Ellie permalink
    December 2, 2014

    Rachel, I wish I knew you were in our part of the world. I would have driven to Berkeley to meet you (we’re in Belmont) and to have our kids play.

  3. December 2, 2014

    Looks like you still ingest a kaleidoscope of substances–just in the form of broccoli, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, onions…so maybe things haven’t changed that much at all. Sounds like a wonderful trip (and a supercharged peppermint patty and pomegranate seeds sounds like a pretty fantastic way to spend vacation money…much better than a Golden Gate Bridge keychain or similar).

  4. Jane Jaber permalink
    December 2, 2014

    Oh Northern California….sigh…..great place to visit these days, but just think how the land of plenty would have shaped our young ones, compared to their lives in the more humble four corners. Emma can’t wait to spend some of her life there, but better for it to be when she is in her single, selfish “me” phase of life,( the one that justifies jumping on the buzz bus at 6th and Mission at 1am to get over to the warehouse party in Oakland and then 5 of you share a cab back to the city at sunrise and head straight to the lower Haight for eggs and grits at Spaghetti Western!) Yes, that phase of life…that’s when one should enjoy the Bay Area….<3

  5. Laurel Foster permalink
    December 2, 2014

    Thanks for the lovely and evocative descriptions, I lived in Oakland for a year, and would have continued living there forever probably but, I met a man, the one I am married to who was living in Durango, my hometown, and so here we are. Sounds like a wonderful time, I need to revisit. Happy Thanksgiving, also we tried your eggnog recipe-the best!

  6. Susan S permalink
    December 2, 2014

    The family on the beach shot is for your best, most cherished, traditional scrapbook. The kind with heavy black paper and little black corner tags that hold the print photo on the page and a caption written underneath in white pencil– Thanksgiving 2014, Berkeley.

  7. December 2, 2014

    Sounds perfect! :)

  8. December 4, 2014

    I constantly struggle with keeping my identity (and melding it to who I want to be) while being a mother of two small boys.

  9. Jessica permalink
    December 5, 2014

    “how we once drove to Mexico as an afterthought (did we even have a map?)”

    Oh, so you did that too? : )
    The crazy car trips we took as teenagers still astound me!

  10. nan permalink
    December 7, 2014

    Just have to say, my gosh your kids are adorable. And you and Dan are kinda cute yourselves.

  11. December 8, 2014

    omg the cheeseboard. a very accurate description of a place i lived for 5 years. it almost made me want to go back and visit someday.

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  14. April 18, 2022

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  15. April 18, 2022

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