The habits of 19th century Californians framed what becoming Californian would mean. Bitterly for Californians today, those habits did not come with a moral compass. The California Dream had been limitless in its promise of health, wealth, and happiness in the sunshine. Today’s Californians dream differently. As California becomes less exceptional, how will we describe California when it’s not exactly “Californian” anymore? The insights of critical regionalism and Foucault’s notion of “a particular, local, regional knowledge” may provide a guide.
This essay considers the fluid lines between history, nature, and the urban realm. Beginning with land cultivated by the Bixby family near Long Beach, California from 1878 into the mid-twentieth century, Waldie discusses how the landscape has changed by the Bixbys and those who came before and since. He then turns his attention to his own suburban neighborhood and California more broadly, and the way a sense of place, history, community, and nature are bound up in them.