The Road to Sacramento, the Road to Change…
Like Albuquerque, Sacramento is a place name we might hear on a cartoon, but not a place we’d ever expect to visit. So were my thoughts while traversing the vast flood plain in rented car when the silhouette of the jagged Sacramento skyline slowly peeked above the eastern horizon. Like a mirage in the middle of the flat Sacramento Valley, it edged nearer as the sun beat down from the crystal blue sky. All this way for a woman, I thought, a woman I’ve never met, and odds are, never will.
That woman is celebrated, Sacramento-born author Joan Didion, and it’s her numerous essays, books and memoirs that drove me on this journey of discovery. And as I soon witnessed, this was more than discovering Ms. Didion’s birthplace, this was discovering the Zeitgeist of a changed city that Ms. Didion so eloquently writes about, as only Ms. Didion can.
Change has a peculiar way of sneaking up on us, and often the best markers of change are the buildings and structures surrounding us and the people who created them. Whether Egypt’s pyramids, London’s Big Ben, New York’s Empire State or San Fran’s Golden Gate, these architectural wonders, and their creators, reflect the eras in which they were conjured, and stand as testaments to the change that time wrought. To my surprise, Sacramento is no exception, for to experience Sacramento, is to experience change.
Vestiges of past epochs abound. From the State Capitol and its awe-inspiring rotunda, to the Old Town (renovated and redeveloped in the early 1970’s) to the former Governor’s Victorian mansion, to the depression-era Art Deco Tower Bridge, to Joan Didion’s childhood home, all, stand as snapshots of by-gone times; as snapshots of change. But none stands more as a signal of change, than that walled compound referred to as Sutter’s Fort, and the man behind it, John Sutter.
To stand at the gate of Sutter’s Fort is to gaze in the past while viewing the present. Neighbored in stark contrast by contemporary office buildings, the fort stands as a beacon to Sacramento’s humble beginnings, and with that, California’s as well. Built in 1840 by Johann Augustus Sutter (called John Sutter), born of a Swiss father and a German mother in 1803 in Baden, Germany, he is deemed the original settler of Sacramento.
If anyone had experienced change, Sutter had. His was a life of invention and reinvention, of ups and downs, of vast travels, of rags and riches, all in a time when America’s Manifest Destiny played out. He landed in the Sacramento area in 1839 with dreams of building an agricultural empire, and by 1840 the Mexican government granted him citizenship followed by a land grant of almost 50,000 acres in 1841. When the California Bear Flag revolt of 1846 broke out, he found himself imprisoned by the Americans, who shortly thereafter released him without repercussion.
His life story is one for the history books, of which several have been written. He died a poor and broke man in Pennsylvania in 1880, and his demise is largely attributed to the 1849 California Gold Rush, and his neglect to adapt to the change that the Rush brought. Change, not the harsh weather, not the rough frontier, not the trials and tribulations of a pioneer in the American West, but change, led to Sutter’s downfall.
Let us remember this in our own lives (see earlier blog Self-Belief: The Key to Personal Change….) Change will happen whether we like it or not. Adapt and move forward, or neglect and stagnate. It’s our decision, as surely as it was John Sutter’s.
The road to Sacramento, the road to change…
For more check out the Global Ebook Awards GOLD & SILVER Winner of 2014 & 2016, The C.A.T. Principle: Change, Action, Trust – Words to Live By available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. See the latest Amazon reviews here. Sign up above and receive this blog once every two weeks to your inbox. Comments and thoughts welcome.