We just got back from our annual trip to sunny (but cold and windy) California, where we visit relatives and friends in the East Bay-Sacramento area.
As you’ll see, this year's vacation included a wedding, a few birthday parties, scenic drives along the Pacific, walks through Monterey and Sacramento, plus a morning at the Monterey Aquarium. It was fabulous!
I’m always struck by the beauty of California plant life, as well as the intensity of light along the coast and in high desert. When you live in the rainy northeast woods the rest of the year, West Coast light is very big thing.
Here are some photos, for your enjoyment. If you have two minutes, slather on some sunblock then click on the video for a virtual vacation. You’ll hear waves, birds and children. What could be better?
It's in the 50s and raining today in New England. Made me think of this photo, taken April 28 at the entrance to the Whole Foods Market in Mill Valley, California.
Friend Karen, who participates on this blog, came up north to visit while we were in the Oakland area. This was our first visit in several years.
Karen and I went to junior high and high school together, part of a group of girls who hung out together in those halcyon days and have kept in touch ever since, even if only occasionally.
Unlike your relatives, I guess you really don't need to contact close friends very often. When you know someone from the very beginning of your and their adult life -- as we did -- you more or less can pick up the conversation where you left off, whether that was last week, last year, or 40 years ago. We know how each one of us operates and what makes us do the things we do, so we don't need to hear the details.
All in all, the 8-10 of us still standing have moved all over the place, married, had kids, divorced, had cancer, have found new ways to live, but otherwise we're the same people we were almost 50 years ago. Our hair may be mostly grey or white these days, but when we get together, we see only blonds and brunettes. That's what friends are for: They remember your best days for you.
Karen is an artisit with a beauful, gentle and somewhat wild soul. You can probably tell that just by looking at her picture. We spent a couple of hours this afternoon walking and talking along Piedmont Avenue, some of that time with her lovely daughter, Jenny.
We came to California to visit, but also take a brief vacation from the craziness of the past few months. Sometimes you just need to turn off the news, and forget about it for a little while. The recession, the flu, the war(s), the murder and mayhem will still be there when you sign back on.
Mendocino County looked like a good bet for peace and quiet. We found plenty of it in a town of 400, about 20 miles east of the coast. Near the intersection of vineyards, redwood forest and cattle ranches, we discovered a cute little inn with guest cabins, each containing one bed, two chairs, a table and absolutely nothing else. Nothing like austerity to cleanse the soul.
There we were, curled up in our rustic cabin nestled under a down comforter when Dave’s phone went off. I didn't lie about the lack of cell service. It was weak at best, when you could get it.
The caller was one of the tenants renting our condo back home. Dave could hardly make out what he was saying, between uncontrollable sobs.
The night before, when he returned home, he found his wife of 50 years dead in a pool of blood. It was even worse than that. She had died in a particularly violent and ugly manner. The police believed it was a natural death, but they would wait for the ME’s report.
Naturally, we swung into action and spent the rest of the day trying to help from afar. We hired one of those crime scene clean-up companies and looked for other ways to assist the poor man. Mostly, we mourned the death of a delightful woman who was only a few years older than we were.
Last night, on House, the ghost of Autumn sang a particularly eerie version of “It’s later than you think.” At that, it all came together. The yin and yang of life. Just when you ‘re dazzled by the age and beauty of the world around you – as we were, in a redwood forest – death walks in to remind you of its omnipresence. Anytime, anywhere. Even when you’re on vacation.
You're not going to last as long as those trees. Your days are numbered and your number can come up at any time. And don’t expect it to be pretty or fun.
So, like Autumn sang, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink. The years go by quicker than a wink, so enjoy yourself, it's later than you think.
And, make sure you use your time wisely. It's so precious. Don't waste a second.
On a related note, Ann Sentilles has a superb post about a woman she met who is making good use of the last third of her life. Ann calls her a poster child for her site, which is all about late women growing older. Don't miss it on The Third Third. Click on the link on the right. I loooove The Third Third!
Dave and I are in California, spending some quality time with a few children, grandchildren, sibs and in-laws. The weather is a bit chilly and damp, but that's a small price to pay.
Below are some of the sites and scenes we encountered on a trip up the coast from Oakland to a bit beyond Mendocino. We stayed at a very small inn in a very small inland town. It was the kind of place where you pay extra for no amenities--no phone, no television, no wifi, no cell service. Just peace and beauty. Very pricey.
You have to do this now and then for your soul.
At least, I do.
So, dear reader, this is my postcard to you:
Having a wonderful time.
Find your own place. It's important!