Six weeks ago a friend plunked a calendar down in front of me and told me to point to the day that I would head out to California to visit my daughter Nearess. So here I am, sitting at her picnic table, looking across a very green valley, typing the Chappy column. It’s one of many things in life that wouldn’t happen if I waited until all of the other things that needed doing got done before starting off on adventures. For me the adventures are as essential as fulfilling the basic requirements of life. Once in a while I need to have my perspective broadened. A flight across the country works every time. I get a stiff neck from gazing out the window as the landscape slides past miles below but I can’t take my eyes off of it. I take a road atlas with me and try to figure out where we are. Many landmarks are easy to identify — Niagara Falls, Great Salt Lake and Yosemite Valley. But I’m just as impressed by the huge flat expanses with circular irrigation patterns stretching out for miles and miles. Half of the country was covered with snow, which highlighted the topography and agricultural patterns.

The last time I flew across North America was at Thanksgiving time. There were plumes of smoke from forest fires in every state we flew over west of the Mississippi River. The rivers were mere threads that were visible only by the sunlight reflection. This time, however, most of the rivers I looked down upon were brim full and the land was either white with snow or a carpet of green. Losing altitude as we approached San Francisco, it became obvious that they now had more than enough water. The reservoirs were nearly full instead of nearly empty. The rivers in the Central Valley had overflowed their banks. On the drive up to Mendocino I marveled at how lush the grasses were compared to my previous visit, when they were brown. When my daughter first moved out to the West Coast I remarked that when I visited, folks seemed less tense in general than they do on the East Coast. She pointed out that they weren’t always dreading the next season like we tend to do here. The climate is mild and the weather is generally more pleasant. But water becomes less plentiful in the summer when the rains end. She stores several thousand gallons of water in a half-dozen big tanks. When the well starts to dry up mid summer she buys water by the truck load. She has an acute awareness of just how much water she uses.

Instead of anxiety about being over-run by tourists or enduring blizzards or coping with a hurricane as we do in the east, out here they have forest fires. Often there are many small fires way back in the forest that were started by lightning. Many factors affect the direction in which the fire will spread. Forest fires in this steep terrain, with such dense trees, are nearly impossible to extinguish. All you can do is be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice if the wind changes and blows the fire your way. At least with hurricanes and blizzards you have days of warning. Dealing with broken branches and sunken boats are nothing compared to having your whole place burned up.

This is a land of extremes. There are redwood trees on Nearess’s property over 150 tall and four feet in diameter at the base. The land is mostly a slope of 30 degrees, no exaggeration! Some of it is a slope of 45 degrees. The advantage is that there is plenty of water pressure from the tank at the very top of the property and the view across the valley is spectacular. The disadvantage is that all of the flat ground for gardening and buildings must be carved out of the hillside. The ground here is so solid that an excavation can have vertical walls that stay that way forever. The driveway is a series of switch backs and even then you need a running start to get up the steepest sections. Fortunately ice is rare around here but mud can be nearly as slippery. This place makes the Islands seem pretty flat.

Liz Villard has been hosting the Spring egg hunt since time immemorial. It’s time to pass the basket to a new host. The hunt is scheduled for Saturday, April 15 from 3 to 4 p.m. The host would need to fill the plastic eggs, hide them, and hand out prizes. If you are interested please call Lynn at 508-627-8222.

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The Gazette wishes Chappy columnist Peter Wells a belated happy birthday on March 21.