I spent three and a half days in the crisp California air, under bright blue skies, surrounded by palm trees and traffic jams. It is strange and gritty and beautiful. Not New York at all. The city sprawls, stretching its arms wide, winding along the coast, into the mountains and valleys and falling fast into the wide sea.

Monday night we took Pacific Coast Highway north out of Santa Monica toward Malibu. Music from high school, from road trips and summers in New Jersey echoed loud from our over-amped speakers. The car dipped around a corner and the earth opened, exposing wide beaches and jagged cliffs.

I remembered Cape Town and my heart broke. The memory of African coastline spilling into the deep Atlantic; of sunsets overlooking the Cape and Table Mountain rising above us, looming in the night. Suddenly I felt full of sun and open air, the mountains rising toward heaven and crashing down into the depths of the earth, cascading beneath the thundering waves of the Pacific. “It looks just like South Africa…” My words choked in my mouth, my eyes tearing up without warning.

I am in love with that land, those ancient mountains, the rolling terrain; the folds of the earth centuries old, the trees bending with the wind, buckling under the weight of a Noreaster, reaching longingly for the sun.