We drove up Highway 101. It was a Friday, the day before Valentine’s Day.
Friends, poets in town, had offered us their vacation home for the weekend. I guess he was some kind of nuclear physicist at Berkeley, with an interest in amber and disease DNA molecules and she, a poet of note, although by and large, incomprehensible to me.
We passed by the town of Gualala and noticed the big hotel there. It was then fronted by an old-style western portico with filigree and framed windows backed by lace curtains, visible and inviting from the road for its warm light from within.
I can’t remember if we went in that night and had the roast beef dinner. Maybe it was on the way back. It was good though, as was the Yorkshire Pudding, a dish I have never understood, nor really known how — or more precisely, why — to eat. I’ve been told that gravy helps.
We arrived, unpacked, made love, fell asleep, woke up, wrote some words and went for a walk. We weren’t talking much those days. In fact, we were both aware that whatever had been shining and sweet was drifting away in the distances between our homes, our aspirations, our decidedly different ways of life.
We had been friends for many years — “since the revolution,” as we joked to friends. In our forties we got together, a fishing trip in Baja did the trick and for a while it seemed we had both found the way home, a way to be together that worked, was shared, that grew.
Along the cove outside the house, the ocean spray over the rocks rose and receded, leaving a sparkling landscape, bare and sandy beach, treed up the cliff, bent in the wind and glowing in the back light of mid morning. We wandered down to the shore and along, kicking sand and talking from time to time, identifying the flora. Although now I can’t tell you what was there, only that it seemed strangely serene in what was a rough and gnarled environment.
A path led us up the cliff face to a stand of trees, madrone, I think, and of course, the coastal pines. We set out along the path at the top, away from the ocean, and came upon a house in the woods. Cedar shaked, falling down, gray and weathered, it stood among the pines with a tired but somehow sturdy appearance.
We went inside, the door being open and it being clearly abandoned. We each went to various rooms, separately, an unspoken team reconnaissance, aimed at coming back together with findings of interest. The kitchen was deserted entirely as, in fact, was the back room, which seemed like it must have been the bedroom.
We met up in the living room, both of us astonished, maybe chagrined, not to have seen that there was no roof on the living room. We had not seen that “feature” from outside. A large river stone fireplace stood long unused against a wall. It was filled with blown branches and weeds. As we looked through the open roof to a wondrous blue sky we noticed mist and small puff balls blowing across the opening. The ocean was a distant rumble, a complex counterpoint to the wind in the pines and the squeaking of the loose boards in what was once a window box.
Holding hands, we looked around. In the far corner, we spotted an old Pressback kitchen chair, weathered gray like the shakes outside, and worn through in the seat.
I went over to get it and brought it back to the center of the room. We both walked around it, re-adjusting it according to some unknown feng shui. Still holding hands, we sat down, she on my lap, my leg braced sturdy to the floor.
We sat that way for a what seemed a long while. Comfortably together. Quiet. The sun moved across the meridian, afternoon came upon us. Eventually we got up and headed back to our vacation home. It was getting dark, later in the day than we thought.
“That place had something to it, no?” she said. It seemed wistful, pregnant.
“Yes, it did, ” I said after awhile. “I suppose we could fix the roof.”
“And ruin the view?”
She went to the table in the kitchen, pulled out her notebook and began to write.
Later she looked up from the notebook, gazed out through the window to the darkening ocean sky and said, “Not much point to doing that now.”
I pulled out some eggs from the refrigerator, cut up some local shallots and mushrooms and made omelets for dinner.
“When your mind’s made up” piermario @ flickr. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.