"How different could the West Coast be from the East?" I have spent the last two years on the North Shore of Massachusetts, and assumed that Coast is Coast is Coast. And yet, over the past few weeks in Northern California, I have perceived quite a few distinctions from New England, the primary one centered around a single characteristic: height.
In Massachusetts, I am a beach-frequenter. Often times, my friends and I will buy a bundle of wood and build a campfire by the shore, staring up at the sky long enough to see a shooting star or two. But the California coast caught me by surprise--it just looked so massive. Now I don't think the beaches are in fact any larger than those in New England, but the hills. These make all the difference. I felt insignificant at the bottom, and empowered at the peaks.
And then, to the Red Woods.
Typically, my grandmother is the one in the family who stops at every moment to exclaim in her southern drawl, "Would you look at these Magnolias! How magnificent." She's the one to stop and stare, and I'm the one to press forward. But this time, I found myself pausing frequently, neck pulled back in awe of how tall these trees were, how old they must have been. Some that had fallen were broken in two, and you can see hundreds of rings circling the center, indicating severe age. The Red Woods are a spectacle to see.
I recently saw Sufjan Stevens live in Boston, and though I had seen him before in a Christmas show, his performance really shook me. And perhaps it was his newest album, Carrie and Lowell that shook me. But either way, shaken I was, by the musical simplicity and yet lyrical profundity. One line that particularly sticks out, from the track "All of Me Wants All of You", is "Landscape changed my point of view." As I stared at the lowering sun from the tip of a hill overlooking Petaluma, this is what occurred to me. Landscape does just perspective. As does height.