A chill grips my bones today. When I opened the door to let the dog into the yard, tendrils of grey crept into the house. Perhaps the rising sun vanquished the fog but in those minutes near dawn, the air hung wet and heavy. It clings to me, hours later, as I nibble on berries and drink yesterday’s coffee.
I feel a sort of kinship with the heavy air. Standing in the doorway while the dog sniffed at the fence line took me back to the many hours which I’ve spent on the Pacific, with lighthouses rising above me guarding the cluster of buildings on the shore. I close my eyes and feel the wind from the sea, or the air moving off Lake Michigan when I visited my son in Chicago.
Last time I went to California for doctor visits, I drove as far north as I could ever have imagined driving, to the mouth of a bay burdened by the threat of an early winter. I ate a small meal in the glassed terrace of a restaurant heated only by a gas torch. The diners all wore their jackets and wrapped their hands around warm mugs of cider and coffee but did not complain. The River’s End Restaurant and Inn, where the Russian River finds its weary way to the sea.
I ate fish although I am a vegetarian. The waitress told me that the fish and chips had been made from the catch of the day — literally, up the coast a bit. She might have been exaggerating but how could I refuse? In my pescatarian days, my son and I had a fish-and-chips contest to see what restaurant had the best. The tender, flaky fillets which I consumed that day outdid them all.
Afterwards, I stood at the deck rail gazing out towards the horizon. I felt no loneliness. Perhaps I’m drawn to the Pacific because no one knows me there. My mistakes stay behind when I board the plane. Lost love no longer clutches my heart. Sixty years of bad poetry lies forgotten in notebooks stashed in the cupboard.
The manager came out and asked me if I needed anything. Possibly he just wanted to clear my table or collect my tab. He spoke in hushed tones, and I answered the same. I’m fine, I told him. Just fine. He surely had this conversation a dozen times a day, but he lingered at my side.
A lovely bay, isn’t it, he finally asked. I turned to meet his gaze. His eyes held kindness but also something else which I recognized. Are you from here, I asked. He shook his head and shrugged a little. He did not say from where he had come, but suddenly I felt something close inside of him. His eyes shuttered. I turned back to the sea. We’re all running from something.
I paid for my meal and left the restaurant. In my rental car, I turned the heat to high. I settled back against the seat and headed south on HIghway 1 to Pescadero.
In a few hours, I will stand in a rally at Union Station to show solidarity for the Women’s March on Washington. So much uncertainty faces our country that my own floundering pales in the comparison. Besides, I think I’ve found my true north. I’m ruminating. It has been a long time coming but the dawn draws near.
Looking northwest from the deck at the River’s End Restaurant.