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Illustration by Cole Hersey

Last night I went for a walk at around eight thirty. The wind was blowing in loud, uneasy, bursts. The sun was setting. As I walked I would lift my head up to see which direction I was going but that didn’t matter much to me. Mostly I kept looking at the pavement below my feet. I tried looking up to the last bits of sunlight on the trees. It was beautiful. But still, my head would return to the pavement. I just couldn’t bring myself to look up at the trees.

Passing a few houses I could hear people talking, enjoying a cigarette or a drink on the porch with some friends, gossiping, but more likely talking about the world, the news. A young woman with her partner walked passed me and began to explain how things have changed in the past three weeks. I didn’t catch how things had changed. The wind grew loud and they were now too far away to hear. For most of the walk, all I could really hear was the wind. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

It’s hot again. And the wind is beginning to speed up. The solstice just past and already the hills are gold. The milky oats are dry and the soil is barren of moisture. I don’t hear as many songbirds but there are some still out there. Some goldfinches are still passing through. At least, for now, as the sky is endlessly clear, the wind isn’t a devil wind. It’s just a soft welcoming breeze.

In southern California, the southwesterly winds of summer are called the Santa Ana winds. Or the Santana. Or the Santa Anna. It is often disputed what the name refers to. Some believe that the name comes from Saint Anne, and the day that the Santa Ana mountains in Orange County were “discovered” on the feast day of this saint, the mother of Mary. The winds pass over these mountains. Others believe that it refers to the eleven-time president of Mexico, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who lost Texas. But there is another guess as to the origin of its name. Some people believe that it is not Santa Ana but a phonetically similar word, Santana. Santana means Satan in Spanish. Often in English, these winds, and winds like it to the north that pass over Mount Diablo, are called devil winds. With these dry currents from the inland range of the Sierras that pass through in the summer, comes fear of terrible fires. These winds bring genuine worry to people across California. They endanger everything to an extent that, in modernity, we are not used to. So Santana makes the most sense. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

Today.

The wind has been heavy the past few days. The sound of cracking branches is so common that, like today, when things have become slightly more still, I wonder when the next torrent of currents will come. But this is easy to forget. For now it doesn’t affect me.

2017.

The spring term was over and people were leaving. We decided to walk to the small village outside campus. Passing a construction site for a new home, we stood there as we finished our cigarettes and looked at it. We stubbed the butts out on the pavement. Noticing that no one was around we walked into the site. The frame of the building was completely set and there were floors that you could climb. We went from frame to frame, examining the symmetry of all the two by fours, the way things were lit by the open window like a church hall that would one day be a forgotten attic. We walked into each unwalled area, taking guesses about which room would go where. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

37° 59’ 14.3” N, 122° 35’ 16.7” W

As I write I imagine my hands in the dirt the way they were yesterday. I look up and at the garden. I love this garden my dad made. There is corn, irises, tomatoes, basil, nicotonia, poppies, ginger. There is also a meadow-in-minature of blue wildflowers that neither of us can find the name of. They weren’t anywhere in my wildflower books. Couldn’t find them online either. Maybe out of a collective boredom we’ve made up this meadow.

I hear the cars in the distance, through the sound of the leaves of the live oak. I look up and there is nothing in the bright blue sky. I can’t see the wind. The blue sky reminding me of the ocean. Not in the blueness of the ocean, but how it seems so endless, the way it revolves around the earth. Lately I’ve come to see that boredom is taking ahold of me, and that there is little to say or do, almost because there is so much to say and do. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

Waking up at 8:30, I drank iced coffee. The sound of birds raging outside. The sight of the Douglas fir and redwood outside, omnipresent. The sun on them lighting up like a beacon. The heat was bursting. At 10:30, it was already 90 degrees.

I dreamt about mountains. Something about the heat of summer makes me want them around me. I wanted to run up those tinder studded hills into some random stream and hide away from the intense dry heat. I wanted to go to the mountains. The air is cleaner, clearer, there. Fewer people. Cooler too. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

I would be lying if I said that I’m completely satiated in lockdown, but that’s mostly true for everyone. And yes, I’m incalculably fortunate to spend my time writing and reading — to spend this time as I see fit. But I’m beginning to crave the presence of strangers. Craving walking into a bookshop or cafe, getting a coffee to stay, and sitting with some friends or a date and just getting to know some people. Or head out to a bar and play darts with friends.

In truth, I love this time to write, but I’m not a person who enjoys life at a distance, observing rather than participating. I love to interact with others, to talk and to hear their stories. I find that the introverted life is only partly for me. I love hearing about the lives of others. I value greatly those moments when we take the time to separate our barriers as strangers to each other and become, even if only slightly, known. I love people. I don’t like to stay out late, too often, but I love being with people. It is as important to my writing as reading or teaching myself the rhetorical importance between the quotation styles of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Catherine Pace, or Samantha Schwelbin. People are for whom I write, and so I love being with people, immersing myself in the communal rather than the solitary. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

Walking down the hill into that quiet valley, past some madrones and bay, I enter the redwoods. As I walk through the small patch of trees heading back to my bike and home, I see a woman, her legs out like a sumo wrestler as she takes a photo of something in the redwoods just beside the trail. She looks up to me and smiles. I wave and don’t say anything, moving to a patch of ground free of poison oak off the trail so she can pass me.

“It’s okay,” she says, not moving, but looking now back to the trees, “You can look.” …


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Illustration by John Hersey

From most hilltops where I live, at least the popular ones here in the center of the county, more often than not look out to the cities, towns, and highways interspersed within the hills that make this place livable for people, that make this county residential. This place I go to doesn’t look out to the cities.

I hike up to this hill, where it’s easy to find veins of quartz crystals, in order to look at everything that isn’t the town. I go there for peace, yes, but also the quiet where the roads aren’t as loud, and where I can feel completely alone yet fully surrounded by the lives that live in these hills and valleys. …


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Illustration by John Hersey

I start off these entries with something tactile. Today I’ll say the warmth of the sun mixed with the breeze cools my skin. I then try to describe the moment further. The leaves rustle, the sound similar to a dry corn husk. My dad has heirloom corn in the backyard. We are waiting for the corn to grow tall so we can eat them. There are titmice calling from the oak tree. I start the journal entries off like this, then move further inward. …


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Illustrated by John Hersey

Last night, my dad and I, sitting outside talking about the anxiousness surrounding us, how it seems like everyone, now a month in, seems to be resting on a sharp blade. He said, “It’s just fear.” And in a way that is hard to argue with. Walking around, or running, or skating, people are so afraid to look back at you, afraid of looking into eyes and seeing the same fright and instability reflected back at them. But maybe it’s all been like this since before lockdown. Fear is pervasive, especially here in the United States. It’s what runs our whole system of commerce and functions as the basis of most political arguments. …

About

Cole Hersey

Writer + Designer. Thinking a lot about the political + the mundane + the human + the other animals. HMU @ chersey12[at]gmail.com

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