Les Vacances

[Wildcat Beach, morning, July 2008.]

Pls. forgive my absence; I have been Away, and it was marvelous.

Last summer for my vacation I went to Greece — to sweet, sweet Spetses, with its lovely sloping hills and dry and dusty streets, a Mediterranean Ocean like bathwater, time spent with some of my very favorite people on the other side of the world … Truly, it was a wonder. It’s been nearly a year and believe me when I say that when I plunged into the cold ocean Friday afternoon in Santa Cruz (and yet, it was still warmer than it would be in San Francisco) I thought of the Med last August and wished for it, just a bit, even though I was quite content to be where I was.

The thing was: I was going to go to Greece the last two weeks of July. My best friend got married last April to a wonderful woman from Northern Greece, and they decided to have their Greek wedding this summer in her little mountain village north of Thessaloniki. Of course I would go. Then I had the wild idea that I’d go to the wedding, and afterward go visit one of my oldest friends in Tel Aviv as well as — oh, fortuitousness! — a friend from Reuters in Jerusalem (the hummus! The falafel! The ocean! My pals!). But then my old friend left for other Middle Eastern locales, and my Reuters buddy was set to be in the States at the exact same time I’d thought to be visiting, and I finally looked at plane tickets and realized: alas! It was just too much, couldn’t do it, maybe I shall go another time, but not now.

So I thought of what I could do in lieu of with all that vacation time I’d saved up for potential Grecian/Israeli adventure and which wouldn’t completely bankrupt me.

[Pacific Ocean from the trail, July 2008.]

We all know that I love Pt. Reyes — truly, I have written and rambled on about it enough that it will come as no surprise that I decided that what I would most like to do for my little mini-break was to camp for a few nights in the national seashore, complete with a bit of hiking and a bit of camp cooking. So, we did, and it was grand.

What I miss most when I’m not there is the smell of the air: the bay leaves, the damp earth, the stream breaking over the rocks and flowing out the sea. The trees rustle quietly in the wind when there is a wind; when there is none it is very dry and still and you can hear the cries of various birds soaring overhead. It’s true I grew up in Sonoma County, and know intrinsically that other, more inland feeling in late summer, but I also grew up in Inverness and when I say I go ‘home’ it is both to Sebastopol and to that wild tangle of trees and brush. The last time I was in the Seashore before this trip I tried my hardest to keep up while riding a bike then burst out onto Arch Rock right before the sun went down and the rocks and water were tipped with gold and sparkling light; it was too brief, so I knew I must go back.

This week was different. The first afternoon, starting off late, the fog piled in and we stood under the redwoods and it felt like it was raining — in July! I’d never taken the Coast Trail before and it was good to try something new; but how many times have I lugged my pack — and books — out there during the past 12 years! I swear I expected to meet my younger self along the trail, with longer hair and less lines around her eyes. When we stopped for cookies and water (food of the gods, it was not) about halfway in the first day, the mist seemed like it was being dumped down the trees in great swathes; it was strange and ethereal and beautiful and cold all at once.

[In the fog, Pt. Reyes National Seashore, July 2008.]

We did this: 6 miles, 8 miles, and 6.3 miles in three days and I have to say, as I hadn’t backpacked in nearly two years, that I was proud of myself for managing it not too shabbily. I must admit I felt sort of disorganized about this trip — heck, I didn’t even know how many miles it was in between the camp sites! Oops — not to mention the food was nowhere near up the standard of what I’ve done before but it didn’t really matter that I forgot the water filter and couldn’t unearth my utensils. After the first chilly night (and it was pretty chilly) the sun burst out and it was sun and wind and warm sand the rest of the time.

There was a moment on the second day, slogging up what seemed an interminable uphill climb in the blazing sun with my legs aching, sweat dripping into my eyes, breath harsh in my throat, ocean to my back when I thought This is what is important, just being in this minute with the wind against my face and that brilliant blue behind me and it was good to remember it so.

Join the Conversation

  1. Your photos are achingly beautiful! I love the perspective….And heck yeah, MFK Fisher–even in hardback is a worthwhile addition! Have you ever read any of Martha Gellhorn’s work?

  2. “this is what is important, just being in this minute with the wind against my face and that brilliant blue behind me ” I need to remind myself of this EVERY DAY. It would be damn near impossible to leave Santa Cruz without feeling lighter and more at peace. That place just radiates good vibes. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. Although I am willing to throw down for your next trip Greece. I’m dying to go :)

  3. Okay, now I want my vacation AND your vacation. Lovely!
    And I don’t know about the chocolate being a necessity, but the cookies for sure. :)

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