The Californian loves his state because his state loves him. He returns
her love with a fierce affection that to men who do not know California
is always a surprise. Hence he is impatient of outside criticism. Those
who do not love California cannot understand her, and, to his mind,
their shafts, however aimed, fly wide of the mark. Thus, to say that
California is commercially asleep, that her industries are gambling
ventures, that her local politics is in the hands of professional
pickpockets, that her small towns are the shabbiest in Christendom, that
her saloons control more constituents than her churches, that she is the
slave of corporations, that she knows no such thing as public opinion,
that she has not yet learned to distinguish enterprise from highway
robbery, nor reform from blackmail, - all these statements, and others
even more unpleasant, the Californian may admit in discussion, or may
say for himself, but he does not find them acceptable from others. They
may be more or less true, in certain times and places, but the
conditions which have permitted them will likewise mend them. It is said
in the Alps that "not all the vulgar people who come to Chamouny can
ever make Chamouny vulgar." For similar reasons, not all the sordid
people who drift overland can ever vulgarize California. Her fascination
endures, whatever the accidents of population.
The charm of California has, in the main, three sources - scenery,
climate, and freedom of life.
To know the glory of California scenery, one must live close to it
through the changing years. From Siskiyou to San Diego, from Alturas to
Tia Juana, from Mendocino to Mariposa, from Tahoe to the Farallones,
lake, crag, or chasm, forest, mountain, valley, or island, river, bay,
or jutting headland, every one bears the stamp of its own peculiar
beauty, a singular blending of richness, wildness and warmth. Coastwise
everywhere sea and mountains meet, and the surf of the cold Japanese
current breaks in turbulent beauty against tall "rincones" and jagged
reefs of rock. Slumbering amid the hills of the Coast Range,
"A misty camp of mountains pitched tumultuously",
lie golden valleys dotted with wide-limbed oaks, or smothered under
over-weighted fruit trees. Here, too, crumble to ruins the old
Franciscan missions, each in its own fair valley, passing monuments of
California's first page of written history.
Inland rises the great Sierra, with spreading ridge and foothill, like
some huge, sprawling centipede, its granite back unbroken for a thousand
miles. Frost-torn peaks, of every height and bearing, pierce the blue
wastes above. Their slopes are dark with forests of sugar pines and
giant sequoias, the mightiest of trees, in whose silent aisles one may
wander all day long and see no sign of man. Dropped here and there rest
turquoise lakes which mark the craters of dead volcanoes, or which swell
the polished basins where vanished glaciers did their last work. Through
mountain meadows run swift brooks, over-peopled with trout, while from
the crags leap full-throated streams, to be half blown away in mist
before they touch the valley floor. Far down the fragrant caņons sing
the green and troubled rivers, twisting their way lower and lower to the
common plains, each larger stream calling to all his brooks to follow
him as down they go headforemost to the sea. Even the hopeless stretches
of alkali and sand, sinks of lost streams, in the southeastern counties,
are redeemed by the delectable mountains that on all sides shut them in.
Everywhere the landscape swims in crystalline ether, while over all
broods the warm California sun. Here, if anywhere, life is worth living,
full and rich and free.
As there is from end to end of California scarcely one commonplace mile,
so from one end of the year to the other there is hardly a tedious day.
Two seasons only has California, but two are enough if each in its way
be perfect. Some have called the climate "monotonous," but so, equally,
is good health. In terms of Eastern, experience, the seasons may be
defined as "late in the spring and early in the fall";
"Half a year of clouds and flowers, half a year of dust and sky,"
according to Bret Harte. But with the dust and sky come the unbroken
succession of days of sunshine, the dry invigorating air, scented by the
resin of the tarweed, and the boundless overflow of vine and orchard.
Each season in its turn brings its fill of satisfaction, and winter or
summer we regret to look forward to change, because we feel never quite
sure that the season which is coming will be half so attractive as the
season which we now enjoy. If one must choose, in all the fragrant
California year the best month is June, for then the air is softest, and
a touch of summer's gold overlies the green of winter. But October, when
the first swift rains
"dash the whole long slope with color,"
and leave the clean-washed atmosphere so absolutely transparent that
even distance is no longer blue, has a charm not less alluring.
So far as man is concerned, the one essential fact is that he is never
the climate's slave; he is never beleaguered by the powers of the air.
Winter and summer alike call him out of doors. In summer he is not
languid, for the air is never sultry. In most regions he is seldom hot,
for in the shade or after nightfall the dry air is always cool. When it
rains the air may be chilly, in doors or out, but it is never cold
enough to make the remorseless base-burner a welcome alternative. The
habit of roasting one's self all winter long is unknown in California.
The old Californian seldom built a fire for warmth's sake. When he was
cold in the house he went out of doors to get warm.
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