Three weeks have passed since the change in address. I’m a California resident now–for the time being. It seems as though I should feel more glamorous, more professional, more something anyways. I googled and created new accounts with every social app to find a group that shares the loves that I do–outdoors, animals, unpolluted bodies of water, writing, eating. Anything that I wouldn’t mind doing suddenly became a hobby. Since when do 22-year-olds have hobbies? I’m unsure at what age a person can recall an instant list of hobbies, but I hadn’t hit that year yet. I pretended as though I did, joining groups of photographers, culinary wizards, gardeners. I’d convinced myself that I could learn these things, maybe even be great at them. Nearly fifty events offered and the group event I’m at now is the first I’ve accepted and actually attended.
A wide hand-crafted bench seat support my crossed legs, its arm supporting my notebook and pen. The intense climb in elevation provides an unexpectedly cool breeze that ruffles my already wild, curly hair. Scattered at tables, benches and spread blankets are my fellow writers. Not yet friends, but no longer strangers, we examine the meditation garden of Mt. Washington with quick smiles, short nods–indicators of fresh ideas nearing the beginning of the production line. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, the creation of a thought. If I ever make it to that photography group, I’ll only capture those moments.
A gecko stretched his long torso across a sun-soaked rock, his mate tormenting the tip of his tail with quick, playful bites. Those creatures were the first I’d seen on vacation in Granada, when the tropics had existed only in the games my brother and I conjured up. Alligators under the bed, poisonous snakes in the cupboards, a sacred flower to heal any wound in the backyard. When we’d first seen those agile black tails, we couldn’t help but chase them through the manicured gardens of the rental house our family had rented for a spring break vacation. I hadn’t yet known the effort a gardener stakes on their work, so I pressed the bottom of my feet into every inch of open soil, getting closer to the geckos. Having never seen these creatures before this vacation, it was shocking when my brother grabbed at a gecko and its skinny tail detached from its host. We examined it for hours–the tanned leather hide texture, the scaly overlay, the clean break that once was connected to the uncatchable creature.
My mother joined the conversation explaining to us that it was detachable. I giggled, expecting her to reveal the joke that afternoon. When I later asked about her prank, her voice was unapologetically honest–like the times she’d command us to move our greedy fingers from the stove top–the tails could detach, fall off, in case predators tried to grab it. A detachable tail? I’d never heard anything more ridiculous in my life. How could that be? What about the other animal I’d seen in our yard late at night and early in the morning, who’d clung to every patch of fur on their bodies, dug through our trash bins for scraps to keep their newborns chubby, every part necessary! It angered my 8-year-old self that this gecko had the audacity to develop expendable body parts while every creature I knew of struggled to survive each winter.
Welcome to Southern California, where you put on whatever you’d like every day of every year. I saw that same species, a gecko, again when I took my first step onto California soil, crawling up the windowsill of the house I’d be living in. Every sunny day I’ve spent here, I watch these creatures haunt the tropics, either residential or uninhabited, it matters to them not. And now, outstretched in front of me, surrounded by inspired minds and busy pen-filled hands, I can’t help but admire this gecko–the true mascot of California living.