The East of the West

It always happens this time of year. It's late in the day here in New York. I'm at work, hearing the radiators ticking and drinking the day's 5th cup of tea without much interest. Something's nagging at me, like a hangover from a dream that lasts all day. It's a longing for California, but it's more complicated than homesickness; it feels like an inevitable, magnetic pull. I'm not fantasizing about Malibu or Napa or San Francisco. It's the Eastern part of the state I'm missing; the part that's wild. The part that once crippled westbound wagons seeking paradise. The part where even a plane crash can go overlooked for months or years. 

I find myself staring at a Google map of the Sierras, wondering about all that soft green space that looks so deceptively empty on the screen. A few clicks later I'm gazing longingly at pictures like this, in the same way other people drool over shots of Caribbean beaches:

Near Benton, CA

Near Benton, CA

I miss the flat heat, but not in the way that you miss a dead dog or an estranged sibling. I miss the way that everything stills in the dry, dominant wilderness out there. The way that the land is still something to be reckoned with. The way that the drowning expansiveness of these places starts to feel normal after a few days. The crunch of gravel, the rustle and evidence of non-human creatures going about their business, outnumbering us by far. They feel very, very far away now.