I embarked today on a six day journey to a land I haven’t been to since was a wee tadpole of the lad. Truth be told, I don’t know when the last time I was here. All I know is that once upon a time, when I was a child, my family went on the Skunk Train — a touristy little train that could, that traverses a stretch of mountains from Willits to Fort Bragg. And that was the last time I was in Fort Bragg, California — not to be confused with Ft. Bragg, North Carolina — know for its army base.
Other than a couple of work related trips made by plane to the far reaches of the Northern California Coast (Eureka and Crescent City — and, yes, those are damn fine trips made in airplanes where they have to balance the weight of the passengers and the luggage), I’ve somehow managed to miss most of the coast from San Francisco to the Oregon border.
You see, just about eight years ago, the Midget family went on this wonderful vacation. Among other things, for five days, we slowly made our way up the Oregon Coast. It was and remains the most dangerous vacation I ever took. The entire vacation lasted ten days. I remember coming back and talking with a co-worker about how much I enjoyed it. His response was something along the lines of “that’s the danger of vacations.”
Ever since then, I have thought I need to end up there, more or less permanently at some point. The Oregon Coast. A little town. Here or there. Makes no difference. Just so long as I can live in a little shack that provides me with a view of that dynamic ocean, that provides me with the opportunity to sniff that air, to feel that breeze. That’s the only thing that mattered. Some point. In my future. I was there.
With that in mind, I’m back in Fort Bragg tonight. For the next three days, I’ll be filling the hours with the Mendocino Coast Writer’s Conference. I’m pretty sure it will be an incredible opportunity. As I drove today, I was reminded of various posts Olivia has written over the time I’ve followed her blog. I may not get this exactly right, but the sense is that there is something that happens when one journeys from home to a vacation spot. It’s a mind-altering experience, very possibly like no other.
I left Sacramento at 9:30 this morning. There’s this stretch of road, about 50 miles, that is two lanes and over the coastal range. Twisty, turny. Absolutely a joy to drive. Except when there is slow traffic in front of you. Which happened all too often. And, as is my custom, I got pissed.
Then there was this moment after Hwy 128 merged with Hwy 1, which spends much of its length swiveling right along the edge of the ocean, twisting along cliffs and curves. Once I broke out onto Hwy 1, I no longer cared. I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery, more content to take my time and look at the ocean and the trees and … well, everything.
It’s the thing that Olivia talks about … how there’s a point at which where you are and what you’re doing transitions you from the you that is you … back there … to the you that is … you.
I breathed deeply. I got to the cabin where I’m staying. It’s a 1/4 mile walk across dunes to the ocean. It’s in this incredible little location that … well, here …
After dinner at the North Coast Brewery, I returned and journeyed across that gargantuan 1/4 mile and waited. I wanted a picture of the sunset. While I waited, I spun around. I took a series of pictures that covered the entire 360 degrees of what I saw in that spot. (They aren’t that good from a photographic perspective, so I’ll spare you.)
But, I had a moment there. I shed a tear. This is where I should be. Where I need to be. A place like this. I could smell the salt and brine of the ocean. I was surrounded by the green of lush trees, the browns of dunes that stretch for miles, and the blue that is an ocean that stretches for thousands of miles.
A little town. Not a metropolis of a couple million people. A slower pace. Yes, vacations are dangerous things. In that moment, I thought, I cannot go back. I must find a way to stay here. To live here.
I perched on a dune and waited for the sun to set…
I snapped a few pictures. Not incredibly happy with any of them. The dynamic nature of an incredible sunset was missing. Something about the fog bank that lay out there at the horizon seemed to make an incredible picture impossible. I began to walk back to my cabin. I looked back at one point and realized this. The sunset got better. There was more there. I had not waited long enough.
Patience. That’s what I learned in that moment. Patience. There is a time for everything.
I’m just ready for the time to be now.