I'm back from my latest northern trip. I took no time at all to stop and look around, it was more important to get back here, to do some last minute soul-refreshing, and prepare for the week ahead.
I have two more tour days at the aquarium. I'm looking forward to going, not looking forward to saying goodbye. I have one more day at my church. It happens to be the day of our big Saint Patrick's Day party, and there will be food and music and fun, so for me it's the perfect send off. I'm also looking forward to the party, not looking forward to saying goodbye.
Apparently the complex I'm moving to is the center of all drama in Petaluma... but I suspect a lot of what goes on there is the clickishness and boredom of senior life, and is just bigger and louder in certain circles because the complex is much larger than other senior complexes I've seen. And I'm OK with all that, because I don't need to involve myself in the drama, and my apartment is pretty isolated relative other units (I have no neighbors to either side, I'm flanked by the office and the emergency equipment room) I figure I can be involved without being entangled, and since a lot of what I do is off grounds anyway (my volunteer work) I'll have a nice, quiet apartment to come home to, and some light socialization at home if I crave it.
Right now I'm feeling that last minute resistance. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but I've been thinking about doing a painting based on one of the buildings at El Rancho de las Golondrinas. I can see the painting in my mind, although not fully formed, and it already has a name: "home". I've been talking about Petaluma so long now, it never occurred to me that I may feel any sort of reluctance to go there. Mostly it's the fear of the unknown, because as much as I DO know about the city, as many connections I've made there (at least in my mind) I'm finding the reality a bit challenging to my preconceived notions of the place. I know that to be happy, I need to let go of what I think I know about Petaluma, and just explore and accept it for what it is. Not that it isn't fabulous, but that I know every detail isn't going to align perfectly with my fantasy built of Facebook posts and chamber of commerce advertisements.
One thing that really throws me off after the dust and grey-brown of Santa Fe, and the dirty concrete and steel of Long Beach is how green and fecund Petaluma feels. I know it sounds strange, but it feels almost heavy with fertility, and while I said I wanted green space, I now realize I was talking about OPEN space, not space so green you can almost feel the weight of the moist greenness. There is a reason Petaluma celebrates Butter and Egg Days as it's major holiday, it's an overwhelmingly "farmish" community in some ways... which seems at odds with it's renown for art and antiques, as well as being a bedroom community for San Francisco and Oakland.
Some of the people there remind me of caricatures of people of the deep south. They are unfailingly polite, although there are at times you're not quite sure if that politeness holds a kind of contempt. Others are open in ways I seldom see outside of farming communities, especially strong women who have no problems being who they are. I haven't met anyone inside the art community yet, but I get the impression that Petaluma is a place of vast contradictions in personality, both of the city and the people. And that while I looked into several cultural aspects in the city, I totally failed to look into the culture of the city itself.
None of this is terribly bad. I'm just having a slow awakening into where I'm going. Like any city, it's a lot different depending on whether you're viewing it as a tourist or a resident. Perhaps that's why I've always loved living in cities where other people vacation: I can have a little of both, and can always escape for a short time into a tourist fantasy of my home town.