It’s been 2 weeks since we left Nouakchott, and we are adjusting to Southern California. There’s a lot here that’s nice. Southern California does two things—asphalt and palm trees—but they do them very well. Everywhere you go, you will find asphalt and palm trees. Parking lots stretch for miles, row upon row of parked cars, but above it all the palm fronds wave in the breeze.

I am rather fond of palm trees. I remember the first time I saw them. They amused me so much, these long skinny trunks with floppy tops—like Dr. Seuss trees. It took me a few years to realize that probably they inspired Dr. Seuss, rather than it just being a happy coincidence. 🙂 Here in this small desert town east of LA, there are 6 planted right next to each other in the space of a single storefront. Their slender trunks sway as the trucks roar past; far above the street, their shaggy tops quiver in sympathy. Donn, a photographer, has been inspired by the varied textures of species of palm tree trunks, and through the years has assembled quite a collection of photographs of bark; he’s always said that creation provides the source of abstract art.

I am enjoying the sun, my inlaw’s pool (the twins and I are all bleaching out into the California blonde look, complete with sunburned shoulders; Donn and Elliot, blessed with a slightly darker skin tone, have great tans), air-conditioning as a break from the heat. The kids are thrilled to taste again the joys of root beer and Cheetos (Elliot said, “This is the life.”). The adults are more excited about Ben & Jerry’s, good coffee, and other things that don’t involve quite so many chemical additives. We’re enjoying our time with Donn’s parents, and other local friends. Everything is still too big, too bright, too fast, but we also appreciate the variety available, and the low, low prices compared to overseas.

But this week, Donn and I had to go to Colorado for 3 days—organizational debriefing with our NGO, necessary but exhausting—and I found myself responding to the variety of trees. Pines, maples, poplars, birches, all green leaves, luscious grass, blue mountains in the distance. It reminded me of where my heart is this summer—in the NW. I can’t wait to get there. We leave Monday.