We got home last night from six days in La Quinta, California, and I can honestly say I’m really glad to be home. It was beautiful, for sure, and hot, which was a welcome change from Oregon’s drizzly spring. It was also very very strange culture-wise, at least it was for me.
The kids and I went with my parents, brother, sister in law, and one-year-old niece. It was my mom’s idea. Originally, she was thinking we’d stay near Joshua Tree National Park and do a lot of hiking, but after searching online for rental houses, it seemed easier to stay closer to Palm Springs in a place with a pool, so the kids would have more activity options. In the end, it was quite a bit different than the pristine desert experience I was expecting/hoping for, but everyone still had a pretty great time.
The first morning we were there (to make a long story short), my mom and I ended up taking Levi to urgent care because he had this gnarly rash all over his body. Four hours later, they told us that it was probably a reaction to some medication that he had taken and wasn’t too serious, but he shouldn’t be exposed to the sun or swim in a chlorinated pool. Considering the fact that we had flown all the way to Southern California pretty much only for the sun and the pool, this doctor’s recommendation was pretty disappointing.
We managed, though. For three days, Levi ran around outside in the mornings and the evenings when the shadows were long. He played in the shade at Palm Canyon in Palm Springs with Charlotte and my dad while the rest of us hiked around. (Palm Canyon was beautiful but would have been more pleasant if we’d arrived earlier in the morning. That desert sun is pretty brutal on Oregon-winter skin.) We toured The Living Desert (which is pretty much a zoo), and we did some shopping at the mall. The rest of the family did a short hike in Joshua Tree while we were at immediate care, but we never made it to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which is supposed to be pretty cool. After three days, Levi’s rash was gone, so he did get to do some swimming in the end.
I feel like ever since I started reading Lily Stockman’s beautiful blog with it’s regular pinings for her former home in Joshua Tree, I’d been noticing more and more references to the desert landscape of Southern California. I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that I’m a desert person, but I’m certainly a desert appreciator. I spent six weeks taking a geology field course in Central Oregon near the John Day National Monument, and I fell in love with the terrain. I don’t know if it’s the geology nerd in me or what, but I’m okay with a near-total lack of greenery.
The “terrain” in La Quinta and surrounding towns, however, is…um…not really desert-y at all. It’s all palm trees, golf courses, green grass, and intensively landscaped parkways. And fountains EVERYWHERE. You might say it was Eden-esque, but I just couldn’t get over how weird it was. How much time and energy and money and water does it take to make the desert “bloom” in such a way? And for what purpose? I mean, it’s not even like they’re growing food in the area.
Maybe I’m just a pessimist or a jerk about the whole thing. I did enjoy the sun. I did buy a pair of pants at the mall. I did savor a grapefruit that my mom picked from the highway median. But I couldn’t overlook the overuse of resources, and to me, the landscape (lush subdivisions up against vast expanses of rocks, sand, and sparse shrubs) seemed like a physical manifestation of the culture of consumption.
I don’t mean to sound all high and mighty about the whole business. I guess I was just pretty culture shocked much of the time because of some of the smaller things. Because we flew in, we had to buy ALL of our food at a regular grocery store. That is a completely foreign concept for me and for my parents as well. Also, driving by miles and miles of big box stores, chain restaurants, and strip malls is super weird. I’ve often felt deprived at home because it’s such a big effort to get somewhere where I can buy new clothes, but I think living in a place where it’s SO easy to spend money and buy stuff would be dangerous for me (or maybe anyone). Maybe if you’re around it all the time, you get immune, but when I was walking around in a Target, I kept getting sidetracked from my main mission, thinking ‘Maybe I need that?’ or ‘This is cute.’ I can see how, armed with a credit card, one could get into a habit of spending an enormous amount of money on frivolous stuff and fast food.
Anyway, before I get too carried away with my rant, I’ll give you a few photos. We stayed in the gated community of Legacy Villas. (Most of the vacation rentals in the area are in gated communities.) There was a pool on practically every block, and the fountains flowed freely. The landscaping was immaculate, and the building designs inspired relaxation. The whole place was backed up against stark, rocky hills without a stitch of vegetation. I’d wake up every morning, throw on a pair of shorts, and wander around, taking in the sights. I felt a little out of place, but it was pleasant, for sure.
There were a couple highlights of the trip for me. First off, I read almost an entire issue of The New Yorker, a publication that I love and appreciate so much. My brother has a subscription and has offered to pass along all his old issues to me, but sadly, I just don’t read very much any more and can’t keep up with the growing piles of magazines. I found the recent article about sinkholes and some of the human activities that are affecting the geology of Florida particularly interesting and particularly appropriate for my stay in Southern California, an area where water issues are big business.
The other big perk about my time away is that I finally got my sleeping schedule on track. For some reason, the switch to Daylight Saving’s Time really threw me for a loop, and even though I was retiring earlier, I’d still have to drag myself out of bed in the mornings. I slept pretty great on our trip and got into a habit of waking up before 7:00 again. This morning, my first back at home, I was up at 6:00, and I felt like I had the whole day ahead of me. I go through phases of waking up early and then after a few weeks or months, I start staying up late again. I’m hoping to keep this early-rising habit going for a while now.
Also, there was the bougainvillea. Boy, do I love bougainvillea. They may be sucking that aquifer dry to irrigate it, but it sure was pretty.