El Sobrante Hills 🌄

Do you remember when we got that Airbnb in El Sobrante, north of Oakland in the Bay Area?

We had just driven all the way across the country from Mass and we had the Rav pulling a uhaul with all our furniture and things. Pancake, the cat, with us. She’s a white calico. 

It was a blur of Highway and some discount hotels, but we made it to the west. We watched the plains of Nebraska grow into the mountains of Utah. The sandy roadside formations. And Nevada, and, the way we spontaneously chose it, Oakland California. 

There was a month long bnb in Oakland we moved in. And of course the uhaul storage locker there with all its contents, our stuff, not to be touched til we moved to south San Francisco after the Oakland house. We stayed there for two years. Now I’m back in New England and you’re still in LA.

But El Sobrante was the moment- the pivotal turning point. We went from two mid twenties post grad girlfriends on the road to two residents of a completely new place. It was the moment between my life before and my life after, the moment where everything was in suspense.

We hauled and tilted that load up the unnervingly steep hills and narrow corners of our new California town, and tried to keep track of the ratio of thrill to panic. 

We went to the grocery store, and could tell it was very different from where we had been. 

Higher population, names and signs in Spanish.  Asians and Latinos. Intense baking sun. Light pollution sunsets. Beautiful houses, beautiful desert plants and trees and natural landscape. But also a little dirty, a little dangerous. 

After we got that uhaul rav parked in their steep driveway at the top of a hill. I remember you having a stress response, borderline panic attack while we navigated all that we owned on those new and dense streets.

Our Airbnb owners were the quirkiest Filipino couple you could imagine. She made a show of cleaning for us, but in a way that blocked our entrance and we had to stand around and make awkward conversation for an hour. We had a private house but it was right behind theirs. 

I don’t remember much now that it’s been four years but I remember Pancake puked like five times in the room that night. The next day as you took care of stuff I had to walk miles to get something notarized so I could receive funds from a dead relatives will. I didn’t want to drive our precarious haul, and I wanted to check out the surroundings. 

That was where I first saw the California vibe and that town was it in quintessence. It was a long walk. Hills, strange ornate Mexican inspired architecture, hot October. Not many other pedestrians on the roads. Sometimes no sidewalks. 

The novelty to me outweighed the question of safety and belonging and I had a pleasant afternoon, walking as an alien in a dream. I was the Fool in tarot at that moment, inviting myself to the unknown. Taking a risk on purpose. Delighting in the openness. No rigidity, in identity or ideas. Intending to see a new place as it is. 

Feeling the radiant sun console my disorientation, willing to confront the unfamiliar and make it mine.


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