Notes from Home: Leaving Dunsmuir


By Trudy Wischemann 

It wasn’t easy leaving Dunsmuir, but it was time. The crisis in my brother’s life had downgraded to a tropical storm and my own life was calling me back. Respectful of the distance yet mindful of the responsibilities I’d left behind, I said my goodbyes, packed the car and started home.

For days now, scraps of Dunsmuir’s scenery have floated through my mind: the historic railroad yard perched on a half-moon disk of floodplain along the upper Sacramento; the late sunrises and early sunsets over steep mountains confining the canyon; the curving main street and laterals contouring town. The sweet stores and the people running them, working to make a living by creating a community where people can enjoy each other. I barely had time to tap that fountain.

One potential benefit of living in Dunsmuir is that the landscape makes you humble. My sense of self-importance, often overblown, was diminished by the scale of the landscape. I came to understand the value of mountain-man culture there as a way to keep at bay the constant reminder of human insignificance. Once you adjust to it, though, there’s a kind of freedom in that, permission to operate in the present without trying to exert too much control over the future.

Scraps of scenery from the trip home have also run through my mind. The descent through dense forest to Lake Shasta, nearly full again, ended quickly, followed by a brief run through foothill oaks to Redding. From there to Red Bluff on I-5, the beautiful views of the river valley were intermingled with hills of grass- and oak-covered volcanic rock. I took Hwy 99, still two-lane, through Los Molinos, where small farms predominate and Lassen’s plateaus extend in the distance, to Chico, where the dominance of historically large farms is interlaced with newer sustainable efforts to produce food. Tree fruit orchards took over around Yuba City, followed by miles of rice fields waiting for harvest. From Sacramento through Modesto, the urgency of traffic congestion clogged the view, but from Turlock onward, the old familiarity of 99 was comforting.

Being in Dunsmuir made me homesick for Lindsay and Exeter. My first few days here, however, have been complicated by mental exhaustion and the clear evidence of domestic neglect I left behind mentally as well as physically. Home is where you make it, and my home in Lindsay is in serious need of reconstruction.

But I think I’ve come to recognize a kind of homelessness in myself as well. My family used to take Sunday drives to go “househunting,” an activity that got serious when my mother got pregnant. It seemed my father was always looking for a nice place to live, even after he settled in Sebastopol, certainly as close to heaven as it gets on this planet. My eyes were searching the landscape for potential homesteads all the way up and all the way back, and that made it harder when I pulled into my driveway.

Some of Dunsmuir’s beauty is that it is a place to call home. Lindsay and Exeter have that beauty, too, but it’s not until you apply that name to an address that you can learn all the work – and sometimes the hardship – that goes with it. May we, by enjoying each other, remind ourselves of the beauty as well.

Trudy Wischemann is a semi-retired nomad who writes. You can send her your longings for home c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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