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I live in a town where the tops of neighbors’ cars often hold a playground of outdoor enthusiasm: surfboards, kayaks, bicycles built for mountains. Inside, the debris of those adventures: shells in cup holders, discarded wetsuits in hatchback trunks, a change of clothes in the backseat.

People here talk about tide pooling after work; teaching their children to put up tents; hiking through redwood forests and alongside the Pacific Ocean. Mondays’ updates are stories of vegetable gardens, with their kale and herbs, and bonfires on the beach. I have so much to learn.

For someone not from here, there seems to always be some sort of magic to witness: whales heading north, alongside their young; ferns tightly curling into their own fiddleheads; rhododendrons bursting into colors that defy any name I know.

Walking down the street is another adventure, and not just because nature is so barely contained; it is the locals, too, that fascinate. There are people wearing Bernie shirts, protesting whatever war comes next; the emaciated man who mumbles to himself endlessly, wearing a clean skirt above his black high-tops every day; colleagues rolling down the car window to yell out my name as I walk past.

It is a different life from Baltimore, or DC, or most any other place I’ve lived. I often think of the homes I made my own, the best I could while dutifully writing my rent check every month, and wonder what parts of myself I left behind. I think about what I discovered in each, and wonder what I will take with me from here when the day to leave comes along.

And on those nights when I cannot sleep, I sometimes notice how long it has been since hearing a car drive past my darkened house. I remember what it was like to live in cities; the absence of sound is sometimes still startling.

I listen and listen, and wait; but in those midnight hours, all I hear is the ocean, churning its secrets ashore.

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