A long walk on the cliffs above the foggy and foamy Pacific. Quiet and cool.
No one to talk with. Just DeeDee and me. Although we walk not three strides apart, both alone, in our own ways, with our thoughts.
Mine have been fierce and jumbled lately. Trying hard to make sense of things that may have no resolution. My hands are thrust deep into the pockets of my shorts. Head down. Eyes on the sand under my feet. Thinking unsettling thoughts.
But then DeeDee and I both look up, hearing the unmistakable whoosh of birds above, just in time to see a ruler-perfect “V” of pelicans gliding past. I can’t take my eyes off them and my feet stop dead.
The sound of the wind and the crashing waves give me a moment of peace. I give a silent thanks for the moment.
The morning didn’t start auspiciously. Another driver, distracted by a brilliantly beautiful person running down Dolores, turned in front of me with neither look nor signal. I swerved to avoid him but nearly took out a streetsign to do it. When I’m behind the wheel, my spouse calls me Mario (after racing legend Mario Andretti) for a reason.
Disaster averted, I took my canine pal, DeeDee, to Fort Funston, built in the late 1930s as an artillery battery to protect San Francisco Bay from Japanese invasion, now a dog park and hang glider takeoff spot. It’s one of the few safe places the city’s dog owners can let their dogs run offleash and free, and a wonderful place to enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. [Great ocean views were once critical, I understand, for artillery batteries.]
Not a cloud in the sky, the sun was warm, the breeze off the Pacific refreshing. A glorious first day of summer, the so-called longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
We, my spouse and I, once visited the Orkneys, islands north of Scotland, during the summer. Even after midnight, it never got truly dark. As I waxed poetic about the islands’ stunning beauty, a native reminded me that, 6 months from then, in the dead of winter, it would never be truly light; the sun doesn’t really rise, the place stays in perpetual twilight.
Yeah, thanks anyway. I believe I’ll just stay right where I am, closer to the Equator.
I am just back from a few days in nature. I have breathed clean, cool, fresh air. I have walked fair distances, done significant physical labor, (for the most part) stayed off my electronics. I have sat in grassy shade and had long conversations about really nothing of lasting consequence. I have watched the sun rise over the hills and dapple the leaves of coastal California’s native scrub oak, manzanita and madrone. I explored part of a creek that wound its way down a ravine to reach the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Even in a singularly beautiful natural environment, I still drank too much coffee. I didn’t eat or sleep well (Chaperoning 7th grade boys can do that to a person.).
A change of scenery like this, even a temporary one, can lift the spirits and boost thinking and creativity. There is a reason, after all, that so many retreat centers are located in the woods and so many fewer in center cities. Undistracted by the Internet, television and radio, the latest self-serving whipped-up political shit-storm, I was more relaxed and creative. I did, in fact, think deep thoughts.
On balance, then, it was an undeniably positive experience, although I’m still plenty happy to be back amongst my people.