Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


East Coast - West Coast

I went back to my hometown of Marshfield, MA to visit Mom for her birthday last weekend. I was expecting and hoping for some lovely fall foliage (can't beat New England for that), but the nine straight days of rain sort of put a damper (pun intended) on the potential for leaf-peeping. Still, I did get to see some pretty colours once the sun came out during the last two days of my visit. The strong winds didn't subside much, though, which made my 15+ mile run on Sunday morning a bit challenging at times...

One of the things that struck me during this visit was the architecture in my hometown. When you grow up in a place, you don't really notice what the houses look like, so it's only when you've been away that you see them as something noteworthy or striking. As I ran along Ocean Street, through downtown, and back up to the Brant Rock Marina, I tried to figure out what, exactly, makes these houses look so "East Coast" or "New England" to me. I finally realized that it's not so much the shape and structure but rather the medium that clearly categorizes these homes.

In Sacramento, I've gotten used to seeing homes of brick or stucco or concrete, with rare siding mixed in. In Marshfield, however, almost all of the homes are covered in wood shingles or painted shingles or siding made to look like wood shingles. I hadn't observed this before - or at least I hadn't consciously made the connection in my mind that this type of building material is typical of the East Coast in contrast to the West Coast. The outline of the homes may be similar, but their outer covering marks the contrast.

In a way, this seems odd to me, considering the type of weather that my hometown on the Atlantic Coast has to endure - strong Nor'easter winds, driving snow, blizzards, heat & humidity. Shouldn't wood be punished in this environment? Wouldn't something more sturdy, like concrete, last longer? Or is it the very nature of wood to adapt, to withstand, to proudly face the elements, much as any tree might do?

Curious... Of course, the reasons are probably much more mundane than metaphorical (cost & availability of materials, for example), but I sort of like the image of these well-worn wood homes offering refuge to their inhabitants, despite the forces of the natural environment that try to take them down. That fits with the Puritan (strong, independent, stubborn) associations that accompany thoughts of New England in my mind.


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