It's mid-December and I once again find myself in the East Bay of California. This time of year people wear shorts and shirt-sleeves; they take their children to playgrounds after school even at four PM, which I do with my grandson today. They ride bikes; they stroll through vineyards. Back in Wyoming a storm dumps snow that turns to ice on the sidewalks; here, we enjoy balmy weather. My grandson and I put a pant into the ground before his father and I went to Farmer's Market where even now you can purchase strawberries from Santa Maria.  

All that bounty does come at a cost, though. More than forty years ago, when I arrived in California and my husband and I lived in Santa Clara, the town was surrounded by miles of orchard--pear, apricot, prune--and their lovely blossoms and intoxicating scents permeated spring. The orchards have long disappeared; Silicon Valley replaced them. Now there's asphalt and cement, miles and miles of it, relieved only by the scrawny trees and patches of lawn of high-tech industrial parks. Some individuals are lucky to live near a vineyard, where the greenery relieves the eye. But this greenery, like the orchards of yore, are themselves artificial products of human alterations of their environment.

People who live here, and who work as my son and daughter-in-law do, in the high-tech industry, don't seem to mind their artificial surroundings. Perhaps they don't recognize that something was lost long ago, accustomed as they are to the "new" California lifestyle. Someone who visits does notice, however; especially if that someone remembers a California without the endless freeways, running eight lanes each direction, crowded with automobiles.