As reporters, we go where the news is.
That means we’re often showing up in cities and towns after the unimaginable has happened. Writing about places on their very worst days, after a shooting, a hurricane or some other catastrophe that has upended the way of life.
This is a painful lens through which to see the world, for journalists, readers and the residents of these communities. I wish it weren’t the case that I’ve spent time in places like San Bernardino and Santa Rosa mainly to report on tragedy. And it saddens me that many people’s understanding of Thousand Oaks, where I grew up, comes solely from coverage of a mass shooting there in 2018.
So The New York Times has recently been trying to broaden that lens, to report on what life is like in towns and cities across America on more normal days.
This month is the anniversary of The Times’s Across the Country feature, which has told some especially fun and fascinating stories about things like the bounty of mangoes that mark Miami’s summer, or why so many Cuban immigrants are moving to Kentucky.
Last fall, between reporting on extreme heat and on monkeypox, I spent a few days hiking through the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest of California, home to what’s believed to be, at 4,800 years, the oldest tree in the world.
I wrote about these gnarled, otherworldly trees and how they complete California’s “tree-fecta”: The Golden State is home to not only the world’s oldest trees, but also the largest and the tallest. Taking the time to learn about these seemingly immortal living things and to contemplate California’s identity was a rejuvenating experience for me as a reporter, and I like to think it was refreshing for readers, too.
Across the Country has often told stories about life in California, and I highly recommend reading any that strike your fancy. Enjoy:
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Jane Abrams, who lives in the Pacific Palisades. Jane recommends visiting Lotusland, a botanical garden in Montecito:
“Lotusland is amazing! It’s a horticultural wonderland blending whimsy and fantasy with exceptional beauty, according to the brochure. Around 37 acres of 18 different gardens, including Japanese, rose, topiary, tropical, water, fern and succulent gardens to name just a few. Docent-led, two-hour tours explain the fascinating history of Lotusland and the various gardens. You need reservations! We stayed in Summerland, a small charming town about 10 minutes away. Had a terrific dinner at Lucky’s Italian restaurant in Montecito.”
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
What we’re recommending
In Los Angeles, assemblage art is having a moment.
Today we’re asking about love: not whom you love, but what you love about your corner of California.
Email us a love letter to your California city, neighborhood or region — or to the Golden State as a whole — and we may share it in an upcoming newsletter. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.
And before you go, some good news
Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties have begun a three-year campaign to keep their renowned coastal lands clean.
Called the “Cleaner California Coast” initiative, the new campaign asks visitors to abide by “leave no trace” rules, packing out waste brought in or generated in an area, or using reusable and compostable items instead. The project represents a new tack for the three counties, whose waste management systems have been recently overwhelmed by an influx of tourism.
The goal is to reduce pollution and keep native ecosystems healthy by keeping the area’s picturesque beaches clean. “It’s kind of a simple message: If you’re at the coast, come prepared,” said Cristina Torresan, the communications manager at Marin County Parks and Open Space.
In its inaugural year, the project is focused on local awareness, but organizers plan to expand the marketing campaign to the greater Bay Area in the coming years.