The UC Davis campus allows no easy passage. Its arboretum follows suit. Although the Visitor Guide online suggests that the west end of the Arboretum might be “more accessible” than the rest of it, none of it yields to clumsy penetration.
The Arboretum provides a downloadable map for those of us who don’t have iPads with which their interactive map apparently has exclusive compatibility. I studied the PDF at length before I got to Davis and set my GPS for the “visitor center”, conspicuous by its prominent designation on said map and its absence in real life. After 30 minutes of driving around town, I pulled over and called “Arboretum Headquarters”. Roxanne told me that the visitor center didn’t exist, though conceding that one appeared on their map. She insisted that I could find “Headquarters” and she would provide a paper copy of the map. She could not tell me how to locate her building, though she did tell me what its sign said — should I find the spot on the road where the building sat.
I stumbled on it twenty minutes later, on the far side of a busy campus street with no apparent access and no obvious parking. Throwing most of my caution out the window, I drove a little way further and parked beside a building that crouched within a grove of trees near a waterway. I sat in a handicapped parking space grappling with hunger, fatigue, and rising tears for five full minutes before I composed myself enough to disembark.
I crossed a bridge and peered towards the front of the lodge, at which a conference could be seen to gather. A man in a green apron asked if he could help me. When I explained my dilemma, he urged me to go into the building and find “Sheila”, whom he identified as “a UC Davis employee who knows everything and is really nice who will help you”. I thanked him and continued forward, clutching my reviled walking stick in one hand and my phone displaying the Arboretum map in the other.
Sheila behaved as advertised. She provided verbal directions accompanied with references to the PDF on my phone. She also gave me a bottle of water, for which I would find myself grateful more than once over the next two hours. Thus fortified, I sallied forth.
By happy chance, I had gotten myself in the western third of the Arboretum walkway, that which the map had proclaimed to be more easily navigated in the event of disability. I found it still difficult. With its wide, paved asphalt surface, the walkway did not trip me but the curbs in front of its benches proved daunting. Nevertheless, I kept trudging until I arrived at the Gazebo and the White Flower Garden. Exhausted, winded, but victorious, I sat and let the beauty comfort me.
As I rested, I checked e-mail to be sure that I had not overlooked anything client-related. There I found a message from a woman whose case I had just finished on my last trip to Kansas City. The words she wrote meant more to me than she can possibly know. I share them here not to brag, but so that each person reading will understand how deeply she has touched me in a time when only an unsolicited message of this sort could possibly hit the mark.
When I made the decision and took the step of faith to change my situation/life, I had no idea how I was going to do it alone, how I could afford to. Nevertheless, when I took the first step the path started to reveal itself with every step I took forward. The first step was making the decision and the second was finding you. You did not have to take my case but you did and for that, I am extremely grateful.
I have had to learn that I am not going to make it very far unless I focus on the road ahead and quit looking behind me. I am determined to continue cutting loose all of the people and things (guilt, shame, anger, hate….etc.) that I have allowed to keep me from moving forward.
I cannot adequately explain how keenly her message struck home. The gratitude justly belongs at my end. She has given me exactly what I needed in one of the more fortuitously timed e-mails of my life. Doubtless, many others have tried to convince me of what my client discovered for herself and shared with me. But apparently I needed to receive this advice while sitting in the gazebo of a splendid garden which I had struggled to find, with the scent of white flowers wafting around me, on a sweet spring day, in Davis, California.
It’s the fourth day of the fifty-third month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.