Le Pot. It is practically the anthem of my forebears. They pretended to meditate at the foot of the cosmic universe and also Buddha but they were all secretly thanking the good earth for le pot. My home state kicked me the hell out of its borders five and a half years ago and you’d think I’d be bitter. I’m not. Well, I was. But I’m not anymore. You can’t stay mad at a stoned out state so full of delicious diversity of ethnicity, taste, fortune, color, notes, and spirituality. It’s the state of every flavor. New York City thinks it’s running the biggest diversity gig in the states but I say it’s not. I know it’s not. It wears too much black and relies heavily on arthritic traditions. California is reinventing itself every decade.
I love my birth state. Aside from the climate, I am at home there. Both in the north and the south though I’ll always be most truly a northern girl. When I was eight and a half I adopted Oregon as my new state. I loved it. I’ve loved it ever since then. My innocent view of it was, of course, shattered by my return to it five years ago. I have grown. I have learned to see it with new eyes and dream my old dreams in the quiet of pre-dawn. I have never thrashed so much against the grain nor has my tolerance ever been tested so severely for things I assumed I had an endless and benevolent patience.
I am a dual citizen if such can be said about having feet in two states of this country of mine. I kept trying to choose but choice, it turns out, is not necessary and somewhat futile. We suck up all the oxygen and take on the flavor of the soils we’re raised in and so, just like our mutt heritage, we become a melange of flavors and terroir. I can ridicule California as easily as I can ridicule Oregon. One thing they have in common is their great love for le pot.
I tried to be a good flower child and smoke lots of pot with a lazy lurch towards some kind of cosmic convergence of laid back easy-access back door welcome mat relaxed jean wearing suntanned slot on the spiritual ladder of love but ended up retching violently every time I tried to smoke that shit and eventually accepted my less airy state of being as an anxious denim-hating keyed up pasty-skinned stop on the elevator to hell. We all have our place.
Visiting California is just as much a home-coming as visiting Oregon has always been when I’ve been in California. There is no choosing. I belong in both worlds and neither. I got too much sun on my trip. I hate sunscreen and prefer to live in a climate where you don’t need it because you’ll be lucky to get an extra freckle in a whole summer of gardening.* My skin is much too red now. I like people to embrace the skin they were born with-all colors. My skin in its natural form is white like cala lilies. If I had been born with skin the color of mahogany I would not wish to make it lighter or darker but would want it to shine with its inner light.
It was such a pleasure to walk the beach from the Santa Monica pier to Venice beach at Market Street. I walked the waves the whole way and wore a ridiculous grin I would have been embarrassed of if I could have given a shit.
I couldn’t give a shit.
The people in bathing suits were funny little humans and the whole way it was me and the birds ever watchful between the humans and the waves. The seagulls and pelicans and me. We understood each other and the game of the waves. The true hunger of the ocean fingering her way up the beach to drag the weak to her bosom. The birds and I kept perpetual eye on her hands. I get vertigo when the waves retreat but if I stand still, so does the rest of the world. I’m the only one who knows it. I saw every kind of people and it filled me with happiness. There was fat and thin and in-between. There was black and white and pink and brown skin. There were tattoos, hearts, jewels, rags, bikinis and shorts, young and old, every country represented.
The water was disconcertingly warm and reminded me of being a kid boogy-boarding in the Southern California waves. Back when I wasn’t aware that the water wanted to suck me down and spit me out without my spirit. I like a bracingly cold beach. The hem of my skirt dragged as it got wet and wetter. It’s mostly wood after all.** Every time the water sucked at my hem I laughed out loud. I didn’t care who heard me and noticed I was laughing alone. I am comfortable in my skin and in the world. I said to the ocean “Try again! When you get me I will bow to you. When you shrink wrap my soul in the intestine of an urchin I will give you my heart for free. But you have to catch me first and I’m a wily substantive lady!”
I watched the birds tease the ocean too. We played the same game.
I cut all the strings loose. I untethered myself from obligation and time. I simply walked and my sad mangled feet were cleansed with salt and sand and the light, though obnoxious, didn’t have the power to anger me. I was in my other home. Truth be told, California accepts me with so much generosity as its child that I can’t curse too loudly or too earnestly. The light hurts my eyes but it embraces me in a way Oregon may never do.
California pushed me out of its border and I was deeply hurt and broken but I see now that it was to force me to evolve into who I’m meant to become. I could never have grown as much in California as I have in the north of Oregon. My wild tough surrogate mother state. It has not been kind or easy or smooth here but it has given me the isolation and loneliness and desperation to find fiction. The climate is kinder to me. The snow, when it comes, gives my spirit buoyancy. Being le poisson out of stream has forced my scales to become more vibrant and resistant to rot.
The blackberries growing in the Oregon summer are a prayer I’m never tired of reading and speaking out loud to my spirit.
Still, I’m proud of my hippie parents. All three of them. I’m proud to have mushroomed up out of a pot haze. I’m proud to be the offspring of a couple of crazy young drug-happy adults willing to question everything and seek love and harmony even though hindsight makes a strong case for how ridiculous a mission they gave themselves. I’m happy to have been taken on by a Jewish step-dad who traveled to Tibet with an idea of becoming a Tibetan monk. I’m proud of all three of my parents who are, all of them, completely mad and messed up and brilliant and creative and strong-willed and-
thank god I have a will as strong as any of theirs or I might have been subsumed by them all like proteins absorbed in skin. All of them are scattered now. Disparate and individual and yet I see how connected they will always be through me. I am the convergence of all this pot, philosophy, culture, and sand.
It’s possible that I might never have been born if it wasn’t for Le Pot. While there was a long period of time during which I most sincerely wished I hadn’t been born, in the end I came round to this whole concept of hope and love and Frank Sinatra. When I saw this wee spent doobie on the sand I saluted it for the anthem of my life it is. I may be allergic to it but there is no questioning that my life has been paved with pot smoke.
Amen to the ganja.
Amen to the hippies.
*This is actually untrue. In spite of so much less sun in northern Oregon than California there are a lot of UV rays crashing through the clouds and the sun sneaks in on you unexpectedly ALL THE TIME. I gain just as many freckles every year in Oregon as I did in California.
**Rayon is made from tree fiber.