I am briefly in the place I still call home: my parents' house in California, where the tangerine tree blossoms in the backyard, and the gardenia blooms breathe out memories of my mother breathing in their scent, and pausing, happy.
Here, the lettuce on the dinner table comes from the garden. Here, I look at a spot in the land and I remember the way it used to be--when the hydrangea bush that looms over the path was a small shriveled thing, a potted plant commemorating a father's death; when the tangerine tree was neighbored by an orange tree that never produced any fruit; when the patio was a pad of concrete hemmed in by a redwood fence, and we would corner the dog there to bathe him.
There are ghosts here. I see shadows of the dog, Duke, who weighed more than my sister for the first year or so after we got him, and who destroyed things (plastic cups stolen from the dishwasher, stuffed animals that smelled like us, laundry torn down from the line), and who worshiped us, and loved life. He owned our hearts. My father cried when he died. And I hear echoes of the girls that my sister and I used to be--running feet, hair past our waists, putting on plays for our parents and enacting whole societies with ceramic miniatures. I almost feel my first kiss again, on the front porch on a summer evening. The couch is drenched with midnight memories, times we stayed up til dawn talking about nothing.
California is the place of memories, and the place of hope. Here, a hummingbird appears in the garden, flickering in the flowers. It vanishes. I hold my breath. It comes back for a second, shimmers in the shadows of the tangerine tree, and then it's gone again. The moment ends but the moment stays with me, vibrating in my chest.
Here, morning is cool and so is evening, but the day is warm and the sky is clear. California is the place of promise. The sky is trustworthy. It is empty, it lets the sun through. The air is dry and it never tries to stifle me.
Here. California is the place. The place of placeness, for me. This is the place I want to be, the place that I can be. Oh God, is it sinful to long to return here and never leave? to plant a garden and see the trees grow, and eat their fruit year after year? to have children and let them grow up in one house, knowing their neighbors, not making them wander through the desert before they reach the promised land?
This is the place, the house, the land. We were banished but we came back home, to the land of peaches and honey, almonds and hummingbirds. (Here there is land. In the other place, my house with O., the land is gone, consumed by endless city, cars that never stop moving.) This is home. Bring me back here. I never want to leave.