What Californians Are Grateful For in the Golden State

The Golden Gate Bridge seen from the Marin Headlands in Sausalito.Credit…Nina Riggio for The New York Times

The end of the year tends to make us all a little reflective. The long, dark evenings allow time to contemplate what we’ve accomplished, where we’re headed and, especially with Thanksgiving approaching, what we’re most grateful for.

Today I’m diving into that last topic and, since this is a newsletter about California, specifically what we appreciate about the Golden State.

For months, you’ve been writing me about why you love your corner of California, despite the earthquakes, fires and other disasters we often hear about, despite the high cost of living, despite the traffic. I’ve received hundreds of lovely tributes to Montecito, Newport Beach, Mariposa, Sebastopol and the state as a whole.

As one reader put it: “If we ever left California, we would just leave the country.”

Here’s some more of what you shared, lightly edited:

“In 1973, my wife and I visited the Bay Area from Madison, Wis. We stayed with different friends for several weeks and one day my wife came back from an outing and said she’d rented an apartment. I completely understood. We were smitten by the Mediterranean climate, the stunning beauty of the coast, the way locals valued the outdoors and prioritized spending time in it. And we constantly noticed how in getting acquainted with people no one asked us where we had gone to college — the obligatory sorting process we knew so well from the East Coast and Midwest. So open, so refreshing.

I hitchhiked back to Madison, closed our apartment, bought an old car, loaded all our worldly goods into a U-Haul trailer, and when I got back to Oakland and the new apartment we both started looking for jobs. California does that kind of thing to people. We’ve raised a family, retired and traveled the world for 15 months without coming back home. But nothing satisfies more than my connection to the place that we call California.” — Richard Bunce, Berkeley

“Here in South Lake Tahoe, I step outside or anywhere in town, and it is a respite of beauty. There’s always a cool feel to the air, a boon for this postmenopausal woman. I can drive to the Bay Area for a wonderful change of scenery, even as all those other Californians are heading to Tahoe for the same reason.” — Merlyn Oliver, South Lake Tahoe

“In September 1982, we came to Ocean Park in Santa Monica with two backpacks, $2,000 and youthful optimism. We’ve walked beside, cycled along, swam in, worked near and dawdled at the edge of the Pacific ever since. Californians are diverse, inclusive, open to ideas and in love with the natural beauty of its mountains, deserts and, of course, the Pacific. We’re on this earth for just a little while, and California’s warmth, beyond its fine weather, has fed our spirit these four decades. Eureka! We struck gold making it our home.” — Susan O’Brien, Santa Monica

More on California

  • Jaywalking Law: California has had one of the strictest jaywalking laws in the nation. Starting Jan. 1, that will no longer be the case.
  • Remaking a River: Taming the Los Angeles River helped Los Angeles emerge as a global megalopolis, but it also left a gaping scar across the territory. Imagining the river’s future poses new challenges.
  • A Piece of Black History Destroyed: Lincoln Heights — a historically Black community in a predominantly white, rural county in Northern California — endured for decades. Then came the Mill fire.
  • Employee Strike: In one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, teaching assistants, researchers and other workers across the University of California system walked off the job to demand higher pay.

“My family has been in California for over 170 years, and every time I’m gone from California, I miss it so badly that I cannot even listen to ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ without being clutched by longing to be home. I love all of it — flying into the beautiful cooling fog of San Francisco, smelling the dry air tinged with oak and dust in the Sacramento Valley, seeing the jacaranda and bougainvillea blooming in Southern California, watching the ocean crash onto the beach on the Sonoma Coast, meandering through the Santa Ynez Valley, skiing at Tahoe and seeing the lake from the top of a ridge and on and on. It can be maddening and contradictory and disappointing, but it’s always beautiful and interesting and welcoming, and it’s always home.” — Michelle Oroschakoff, Rancho Santa Fe

For more:

  • Our playlist dedicated to music of the Golden State.

  • In California, where trees are king, one hardy pine has survived for 4,800 years.

  • Some kids play sports. These California kids train wild horses.

If you read one story, make it this

Why office buildings are still in trouble.

Nancy Pelosi in the House chamber as lawmakers voted to impeach Donald Trump for the first time, in December 2019.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

The rest of the news

  • Nancy Pelosi: Pelosi, the face of the House Democrats for nearly two decades and the first woman to be speaker of the House, announced she was stepping down from party leadership but would remain in Congress. Read the full transcript of her speech, and review her most enduring moments.

    Plus, Pelosi’s decision to step aside paves a path for a new generation of Democrats.

  • Big Ten: The University of California Board of Regents on Thursday put off until next month a decision whether to bless or block U.C.L.A.’s move to the Big Ten Conference.

  • Climate: Government officials in the state unveiled a new plan that sets more stringent and ambitious goals for curbing greenhouse gas emissions, CalMatters reports.


  • Attempted murder investigation: A 22-year-old driver was arrested after crashing an S.U.V. into a group of Los Angeles County sheriff’s academy recruits on a morning run, The Associated Press reports.

  • Santa Ana wind: The strongest gusts of the year — reaching 104 miles per hour — pushed through Los Angeles and Ventura Counties this week, The Los Angeles Times reports.


  • Elizabeth Holmes: The founder of the failed blood testing start-up Theranos will be sentenced today. Holmes faces a maximum of 20 years in prison; her lawyers asked for 18 months of house arrest.

  • Guaranteed income: San Francisco will start a program that will provide 55 trans people with $1,200 per month for up to 18 months. Applications for the grant are open until Dec. 15, The San Francisco Standard reports.

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

What we’re eating

These roasted brussels sprouts are perfect as a Thanksgiving side dish.

The restored ghost town and mine in Bodie, Calif.Credit…Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Doug Hall, who lives in West Sacramento:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

We’re writing about how Californians celebrate Thanksgiving. Do you make stuffing with sourdough, or opt for roasted brussels sprouts instead of green bean casserole? Maybe you always travel to a special spot within the Golden State.

Email us at [email protected] your California Thanksgiving traditions and memories. Please include your name and the city where you live.

We may include your email response in an upcoming newsletter or in print. By emailing us a response, you agree that you have read, understand and accept the Reader Submission Terms in relation to all of the content and other information you send to us (“Your Content”). If you do not accept these terms, do not submit any content.

And before you go, some good news

Fresno Chaffee Zoo has welcomed a new African elephant, Mabu, to its herd, The Associated Press reports.

Mabu was added to the herd on the recommendation of the African Elephant Species Survival Plan, which is intended to maintain healthy, genetically diverse and stable species within participating zoos. The hope is that Mabu will produce offspring with the zoo’s two female elephants.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back on Monday. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Briana Scalia and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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