Last weekend, I was in California for my niece’s birthday party, held at my brother’s house on the road to Yosemite. It’s a starkly beautiful landscape of golden hills and oak trees. Hawks glide on the breeze and rattlesnakes rustle in the grass. Often over 100 degrees in the summer, it was pleasantly cool, only in the 80s. The sunset over the hills Saturday night was spectacular, turning the whole sky scarlet.
But I’m not used to the heat. After 15 years, I have become acclimated to the coastal climate. Delicate flower that I’ve become living here on the Oregon Coast, I noticed my arms starting to burn after only a half hour in the sun and slathered on the suntan lotion I bought on the way up. I already had on a hat and more clothes than anybody else.
I had thought I was doing pretty well with my tan. We have had some great sunny days in South Beach lately. I spend as much time as possible on my deck, reading, writing, playing music, and doing yoga or anything else I can transfer outside. We had sun even when it was raining in California. I thought my face and hands were browning up nicely. The rest of me, well it doesn’t get exposed much, so the latent pigment hasn’t shown up, but I felt pretty tan. Until I went to California.
The rest of the family has been schlepping around in shorts and tank tops for at least a month, and they are brown, brown, brown, cocoa brown, milk chocolate brown, there’s-Hispanic-in-my-heritage brown, brown enough that cuts and scars show up white. When I bared my legs to wade in the pool, people shrieked, “Oh, you’re so white!” Someone said, “She lives in Oregon.” Someone else replied, “Oh, ha, ha, that explains it.”
Fine. The cool water felt great on my hot skin. Let them burn themselves to leather. We on the Oregon Coast are short on Vitamin D but probably have healthier, less wrinkly skin because of the moisture in the air. Around here, in the land where everything on shore is green and the blue ocean sparkles nearby, I’m brown enough, and I’m proud. I’m an Oregonian now.