The dry heat of the past two weeks and the past 1500 miles have seemed to help evaporate my disquietude. My mantra intoning the fact that things will work out comes to me much more readily than it did when I first began this excursion. Maybe it’s the wandering, maybe it’s the west. Maybe it’s peace I’m discovering. The traffic on the California highways isn’t bothering me, although the crowds at the parks still tax my composure. The other day I drove in circles around the Santa Rosa area for an hour and half looking for a comfortable motel, actually trying to find one I had already passed, the first one I saw as I approached the city. I even stopped for directions and got none of use, Santa Rosa being bigger than I thought. So I relied on some instincts and internal GPS and found my way back, unruffled and no worse for wear.
I was only going to drive through Guerneville on the Russian River, but decided to stop for a coffee and sit and enjoy the cooler air a few miles inland the ocean. Watching the light traffic passing in front of Coffee Bazaar in this eclectic, self-labeled “hate free community”, something told me to take a walk and explore. I found a small hotel with a pool and restaurant and asked if there were any rooms available. I had my choice. After an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere and the sun by the pool, I asked about extending my stay another night into Friday, the weekend. Doable. And so I have come to relax and channel this west coast vibe and the rhythmic, soothing pulse of the nearby sea and to find some peace and myself. Being in a hate-free community helps.
Day 31 of this journey has been filled with emotion. Early morning was spent among the cool, verdant redwoods, my first encounter with these big trees after having just seen the Giant Sequoias in the blistering Sierra Nevada mountains. But at the eponymous National Park having stewardship over the famous-named trees, throngs of tourists and strollers blocked my view and my true emotions. There was a brief welling of reverence approaching the General Sherman tree, but it was squelched when I couldn’t get a clear, solitary vision of the giant. I wanted to be alone with it, them, the trees. Now in a 400 acre grove of redwoods outside Guerneville, not in the national trust, with no one around, the welling came readily and easily and I shuddered and wept openly. Walking along the well-worn trail in the company of giants, I felt I was walking in a cathedral, not as part of a wedding or coronation, but alone and insignificant in the presence of something beyond me, beyond humanness, something spiritual and beatific. I was overcome.
After this solemn, incorporeal walk I drove west twenty miles to Highway 1, littered with small pull-offs and scenic walks down to the Pacific Ocean. North of Bodega Bay, I found a lonely turn-off and a winding dirt path along the escarpment and down to the shore. The wind was brisk and the waves white, and after two weeks of temperatures hovering on either side of the century mark I shuddered and let loose with an emotional upheaval. I had reached the Pacific Ocean from upstate New York, alone, driving and driving and seeing the things one sees between the two coasts; the trees, the grasses and the sky, the walled developments and trailer parks, the neon lights and the numbered intersections. My mind raced along every highway I drove, every canyon I walked into. I saw every cactus and every dead armadillo I had passed. I thought about those mornings I woke up before dawn nestled in my sleeping bag anxious to rise up from the hard ground I had miserably slept on. I pictured every floral bedspread in every wayward motel I refused to lay upon. Miraculously, I momentarily blocked out the Vegas strip with its unreal glitz and excess.
I stood on the shore, bent down and scooped up the water and spume. I rubbed my hands, my head and face with the salty wetness, christening myself in the Pacific waters. I sobbed with joy and gratitude. I shook from the inside out at the beauty and energy and vastness and colors and life before me all the while thinking of those same things now behind me.