I drove three hours to eat an egg salad sandwich by the side of the road overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
I could have gotten there sooner if I had taken a direct route. But I wanted to see the small towns of wine country, north of home and heading west. I slowed for every cluster of Sunday strollers. I studied the families standing six feet apart, wearing face masks and patiently waiting for their organic espresso. Shuttered businesses flanked diners serving take-out. Wineries boasted drive-through sales. Everywhere, people eagerly called to one another as though they had not seen another human face for weeks.
I hit the Great Coastal Highway just after eleven, turning north to drive through Jenner. In a lay-by, I opened my lawn chair and spread a napkin on the hood of my car to sort my lunch. To my left and right, other folks did the same. A father lifted his little girl so she could stare at the vastness of the Pacific through the embankment of wild flowers. Enjoy your lunch! he called to me. We’re going to do the same! His daughter waved as he buckled her in the back seat of their van, while his slender wife watched in silence, her eyes tense over a lace kerchief tied around her mouth and nose.
I did not linger long. I rolled my windows down and headed south with the breeze ruffling my hair and my own anxiety melting away. When I had been driving east for a while, I saw a road to a county park. I turned from the highway. I had a second sandwich and a tangerine sitting on a rough picnic bench. By the time I left, four people had grouped around the second table, between me and the parking lot. I had left my face covering in the car. As I passed, they each raised their bandannas. I’m so sorry, I mumbled. You’re fine, the older gentleman said. We’re all fine, it’s okay. I stood a few feet from them, and asked from where they had come. Petaluma, he told me. Beautiful day, isn’t it?
I agreed. They all nodded, smiling with their eyes as I moved around them.
I turned the car down HIghway 12 and made good time back to the Delta. My lunch at the ocean had done just what I needed. The sea’s presence spoke to me; and the kindness of strangers eased my way.
It’s the 24th day of the seventy-seventh month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
The photos in this gallery appear in the order in which I took them. The series begins with three bird pictures followed by a glimpse of the flag at half-mast outside our volunteer fire department. Following these, you’ll see the coastal shots. As I made my way home, I took some inland views, trees and vineyards. Back in the Delta, I finished with another shot of a bird taken in the same tree as the morning photos. “Welcome home.”