Every time I come to Pigeon Point I make a new friend. This weekend’s jewel is a woman named Joyce who has come here to write. She spoke of her wife, Jane, for whom she now provides care. She shared photographs of Jane, standing next to Judy Collins; sitting with a cat in her lap in their San Francisco living room; leaning into the light as she makes art. I studied the curve of Jane’s mouth, and the lingering, piercing gleam of personality which the dementia has not yet claimed. I could not help remembering my mother-in-law Joanna in that same state and later, just before her final days.
Yesterday Joyce and I walked down to the bench where I had put the heart for Xander on my last visit. The wind had claimed the little sticker. Joyce touched the empty spot on the bench. We fell silent for a moment, then sat and let the voice of the mother sea join with our own. I told her about my last meal with Joanna in the dining room of the facility where she spent those months of her decline. I had asked Joanna if she wanted food. She lowered her eyes to the spoon which I held out to her. For just a brief moment, she seemed to consider what I offered. Then she shifted in her chair and lifted her gaze to the garden beyond the glass windows. She did not even bother to shake her head.
I asked her, Can I do anything for you? She turned and looked at me. She replied, Not any more.
Joyce and I walked along the cliff amid the ice plants. We photographed the tide pools. We spoke with other visitors, equally stunned by the magnificence of the place. A certain understanding of our collective fortune dissolves any barriers that might otherwise inhibit the easy exchange of confidence between strangers. People tell their stories, and the stories of their broken children; loves lost and found, roads not taken and paths upon which their feet have stumbled to the glorious ending.
In the kitchen of the hostel, a small group gathered to share the food which Joyce prepared. We all contributed something — pasta, onions, zucchini, good San Francisco sourdough and rich olive oil scented with basil. At precisely 8:00 p.m., just as we had been forewarned, the power went off as the power company strained to battle the fires north of us. The gentle dark outside the circle of the lantern’s glow caressed us. Nothing about the failing of the grid caused anything near the dismay which I had feared.
One by one, we told some bit of our stories. A young man named Steven talked about his impending move from Orange County, about looking for an apartment in the Bay area, about finding a job. I told him that I admired his fortitude. He raised an eyebrow, shrugged a little, and said, We’ll see. Joyce mentioned Petaluma, and I said that I had found it once by accident, getting lost looking for Windsor. Steven said, I want to hang out with you sometime, getting lost, finding cities.
The hostel manager invited us out to look at Jupiter and Saturn’s moons through an enormous telescope. One by one, we squinted into the little eyepiece. When I had my turn, I gasped at the luminous orbs. How small we seem, in the scheme of life. I walked away and went back into Dolphin house, and by and by, drifted to sleep under a thick wool blanket, soothed by the lullaby of the sea.
It’s the twenty-seventh day of the seventieth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.