I cannot pretend to always live within the warm wash of enthusiasm or even the humble glow of gratitude. Sometimes I rage against even the smallest injustice: the eyeglasses made wrong for a third time; the computer glitch at the state that no one can fix; the dropped calls, the burned dinner, the broken dish with its shattered memories of childhood. At times the smallest slight draws the most bitterness. Occasionally the onslaught feels worse because of my solitary situation. No one brings me a hot cup of tea or walks through the door with a dozen roses. No one runs a hot shower and lays out a fluffy towel.
The care and concern of my sister’s disembodied voice comes through the phone, in good times and bad; with exciting and troubling news alike; on ordinary days, or days which raise the hair on the back of my neck and turn my stomach. But it’s not the same as a roommate, a partner, or a dear friend, here, now, at just the right moment. I can usually handle what life deals to the table. Sometimes, though, the contemplation overwhelms me.
So I get into my car, turn on Neko Case, Joni Mitchell, or Bonnie Raitt, and drive. North and then west, until the endless expanse of my Pacific fills the horizon.
On Sunday, I stopped in the lush woods of the Russian River valley to post a sticker for my friend Beth Lewandowski’s son Xander. I stood beneath the towering redwood, wrapped in the silence and the fragrance of the forest. I hit Jenner in the rolling fog of the northern California morning. I leaned on the railing at the mouth of the Russian River and studied the driftwood on the sand barge beyond the shore. I drove south, stopping at the little state beaches with their broad picnic tables. I peered over the edge of the lay-bys, watching the waves beneath the highway. I ordered fish tacos at a little restaurant in Bodega Bay. A customer at the adjacent table offered to get water for me. She and her husband beamed despite my declination. I thanked her for the offer and she skipped back to her table.
At Tomales Bay, I loaned my father-in-law’s opera glasses to a family with four or five little children, so they could better see the herd of seals warming themselves in the afternoon sunlight. Each small one took a turn. One of the parents returned the glasses to me as their group climbed back into two cars. They pulled onto Route 1 to a chorus of thanks and wishes for my continued enjoyment of the day. I stood by my own vehicle, waving madly and grinning.
I drove home through the city. At every light, I raised my little Canon and snapped a photograph of the surrounding buildings. As I crossed the Bay Bridge, I raised my fingers to my temple and saluted the sea. I’ll be back, I whispered. I got home before dark to find that some kind soul had left a plaster-of-Paris angel plaque on my doorstep. I studied it for a few minutes before going inside, closing the door, and letting go of the longest breath I have ever held.
It’s the second day of the ninety-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Below the picture of the anonymously given angel you should find a slideshow of photos from my day at the ocean. There are about 44 photos. They sometimes don’t load as fast as I would like. If the show gets stuck, click on the frozen photo to open it; then close it. The slideshow should start again. Please enjoy.