Here’s an easy jumping-off point for those of you who would like to contribute a story to “Life in Pacific Grove,” but aren’t sure how to begin. Tell us how you—or your ancestors—made the decision to live in PG. This week’s guest columnist, Nancy Swing, shares her tale of choosing PG from among all the possibilities in the world. Nancy is the author of “Malice on the Mekong,” a mystery set in Laos. Find out more at nancyswing.com. This article first appeared in the March 3, 2017 issue of the Cedar Street Times.
“Life in Pacific Grove” is the collection of stories by and for residents and visitors of PG that we’re publishing to benefit the Friends of the Pacific Grove Public Library.
How Did a Girl from West Virginia End Up in Pacific Grove?
Via Kazakhstan. And Guyana, Tanzania and Laos. And lots of other countries. After spending most of our adult lives working in the Third World, my husband and I’ve retired and returned to the States.
But it wasn’t a straight shot. In the late nineties, we bought and renovated an old farmhouse in Italy, expecting to retire and die there. But I developed an extreme sensitivity to sunlight, with doctors recommending we leave Umbria and find a cloudy, foggy climate.
We began our search in Portland and drove south, rejecting each potential nest. Finally we reached Pacific Grove, and it just felt right. We’d appreciated the small-town atmosphere of our Italian community, and we found it again in PG. Strangers saying hello as they passed. Locally-owned shops downtown, with welcoming, friendly staff. Ditto the restaurants, and the food was really good! Interesting architecture, lovingly preserved.
Yet we wanted to be sure. After all, this was a big move, from Central Italy to Central California, not just in distance, but in ambiance. And we only knew one family in the area, from long-ago days when we’d all lived in Sacramento.
We decided to try an experiment. We took turns living here in a rented, furnished apartment for three months. Meanwhile the other one remained in Italy, caring for house, dog, two cats and an olive grove.
‘How Perfect This Is’
I remember walking around the Asilomar neighborhood and thinking, “How perfect this is.” Close to shore, close to town, lots of places to amble, from the old railway right-of-way through streets of quaint cottages to the natural forest of George Washington Park. And I felt healthy, freed from the almost daily migraines that had been crippling my life in Italy.
Those short-term stays sealed the deal. We packed up and moved within a matter of weeks, never looking back. There were more delights to come. The longer we’ve lived here, the more we’ve realized that PG has much more to offer than we’d first appreciated.
Yes, there’re the cloudy and foggy days I need. But we also get sparkling days of sun when the light bounces off the sea foam and fills the air with glittering effervescence. Those times when the fog drifts across the dunes and slips through the trees bring a bonus—hair and skin agleam with unexpected vitality.
Wandering Around the World, Coming Home to PG
So many more gifts: Neighbors who truly treat us like family. Celebrations of heritage, from annual renovation awards to Good Old Days every April. Fourth of July in Caledonia Park, sharing food and dancing to live music. The family of deer living in our backyard, bringing forth fawns every spring. The Monarch Sanctuary in winter, when rising sun caresses sleeping butterflies, and thousands of orange-and-black wings lift into the sky. Early morning walks on Asilomar Beach, dogs scampering in the surf while their humans stop to pass the time of day with strangers.
In fact, we’re not strangers. Not even from the first day. After wandering the world, we’ve come home.
Now It’s Your Turn
We want to include your story in “Life in Pacific Grove.” Just go to our website, lifeinpacificgrove.com, and follow the easy directions and submit right on the site. Patricia Hamilton is available to give a presentation about contributing to “Life in Pacific Grove” to your group, book club, service organization, friends and family, and also to lead a writing session to gather stories. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a date and time.