The GPS lady took me to the Point Reyes Lighthouse on the windiest day in March. I had no reason to suspect her competence. The last two hostels at which I stayed knelt at the bases of lighthouses. Had I read the PDF that came with my reservation, I might have realized that the Point Reyes Hostel nestles deep in the national park, 19 miles from the pinnacle on which the lighthouse greets the sea.
I could not get my car door open. The wind slammed against me and the ocean lay so far below the ridge that a ghost would have plummeted to its death peering over. But it stretched for the same eternal distance as it does everywhere, steel-blue beneath the rolling fog.
I had no cell reception. I stared at the heavy metal gate blocking the road. Still thinking that I had climbed the mountain to my berth for the night, I tried an email to the hostel staff. The gate is closed and I need to park in the handicapped spots. I hit send and watched the message queue. Then, miraculously, the wind shifted and somehow my phone found a cell tower, and I saw the note leave the outbox.
While I waited for help I watched the hikers bend against the wind and inch down the pavement, disappearing as they made their way down to whatever lay beneath my sightline. A car drove by, tapping its horn. The noise faded, borne away by the northern gusts which billowed the jackets of the walkers and snatched a hat from a little lady who had emerged from an RV in the parking lot. She watched it sail over the edge. Her body sagged and she staggered backward, grabbing the edge of the flapping door and disappearing into the cab of the vehicle.
Thirty minutes later, Jessica from Point Reyes Hostel told me I was lost.
I stared at the email. I didn’t know that Jessica had authored it; she did not sign her name. But her voice reverberated in the directions. I found out later that she did not realize that I had gone all the way to the lighthouse, but her directions told me enough to get me to the hostel’s door, an hour later — a grueling hour, spent driving through desolate miles in relentless sheets of rain which began to fall right after I started down. The ocean stretched on my left, the old farms and roadways sat to my right, and at the end of the drive, Jessica’s welcoming smile, my bottom bunk, and a hot cup of tea.
I only had seventeen hours of complete isolation, but I did not need more. I let the tension drain from my body. I hauled my food into the kitchen and marked it with tape and a Sharpie. As I made dinner, I talked with a chef named Matt, hunkered down at Point Reyes while he waited for an apartment in Napa. He had moved from New Orleans because he felt drawn to this place. I understood his reaction. He seemed sad, but that could have been a reflection of the pain that I had gathered in a knot and sloughed to the floor when I arrived.
I watched Matt dice some parsley in a way which suggested that he respected the product. He in turn commented on my nicely browned tofu. I smiled. He returned the smile. I took my plate into the dining room and propped Accidental Dancer against the window, and ate my dinner to the soothing sound of the steady rain.
In the morning, I conferred with Jessica before setting off for points south. She didn’t need the map to tell me of a few picturesque turn-outs. I started off, with my bags stowed and a water bottle filled with grapefruit juice, my love of which I’d suddenly rediscovered.
I walked a hundred yards along a trail, to take a picture as it climbed the hill. At Inverness, I idled at the fork, then took the right branch, Route 1 to San Francisco. I experienced only a moment of indecision when I hit the detour, then started the climb to the peak of Mt. Tamalpais. When I reached the top and gazed down on Stinson Beach, I knew that I had made yet another right decision in a week filled with them.
It’s the twenty-first day of the thirty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. From Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, I send my love. Life continues.