Blooms of Change

I've lived in this neighborhood for nearly 15 years. When the lease on my boyfriend's place mercilessly expired, we moved here. On full-sun days, his place was so dark, we dubbed his top floor apartment "the bat cave." I spent the next six months getting to know the area...and shopping for an apartment.

We found a sweet spot with a view of the lake, misty snow-capped mountains, and sunsets so beautiful, I'd drop everything and race home. Watching, transfixed, as the colors in the sky shifted from vibrant oranges and fire-glow pink, and receded into shades of sherbert. Eventually, the sky would yield to the moon, and a study of blues.

Just down the road was a blackberry patch, deep and lush. We'd fill 5-gallon buckets and then, after a quick check for bugs, I'd submerge the berries in vodka and wait 'til Christmas. In the dreary days of winter, inky blackberry vodka provided an instant infusion of summer.

The blackberry patch was prone to flooding, but I didn't mind. Penetrating the tangle of new growth to harvest the more seasoned branches, I'd slip and slide, wondering exactly how many layers I'd have to wear to avoid the thorns? Scratched and bleeding, my hands bore heavy stains and I'd chuck it up to "opportunity cost." The berries--and their many incarnations--were worth it.

But there will be no berries this year. That land is now home to a massive 200-room hotel. I watched as they hung the fake Greek-inspired trim--noticeably hollow from my vantage at a nearby stoplight.

A construction boom on a city-wide scale has eliminated most of the mom & pop shops. My favorite Thai restaurant shuttered years ago, and sits idle while developers secure the surrounding properties. Another massive construction project is inevitable.

They leveled the place where my friend Amy worked. And that 250-seat restaurant was turned to dust within a matter of days. The electronics store is now a prospering Whole Foods and that car dealership on the corner was overtaken by the hospital expansion. I feel like George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life," washed up in Potterville.

Lost in a sea of change, today I drove by a spot where that funky hotel used to sit. The Mexican cooks used to meet there every Thursday for salsa night. Ostrich-skinned cowboy boots and five-inch wide belt buckles replaced checkered chef pants and marinara-splattered tennis shoes. Emboldened by Tecates and tequila, we'd linger late into the night.

Lost in that memory, I was jolted into the present. In the shadow of a towering--and mostly vacant, glass & steel condo building, a sea of poppies waved gently in the breeze. Trying to get a closer look, I rounded block and quickly abandoned my car. Dodging ambulances and evening commuters, a simulated bird chirped my way through the crosswalk.

Philosophical and more than a wee bit sentimental, I thought about digging my heels in, and resisting the change swirling around me.'s time to embrace something new. It's not a blackberry patch, but rooted in an unlikely spot next to the freeway, this brazen field of poppies was dancing in the wind.

Perhaps it's time to take a cue from them.