I set out at eight-thirty this morning, with no particular destination at first. I only planned to head east and find lunch in a lovely little town or buy a few groceries to eat by the side of the road. I ended my eastward travels in the parking lot of the Priest Station Cafe, just twenty miles or so from the entrance to Yosemite.
I could have kept going but my heart pounded so hard in my chest that I allowed myself to turn westward. The road to that point had sorely challenged my natural fear of heights. I stopped in both lay-bys on the climb; and knew as surely as I sat with clammy hands and pounding pulse that I had to get to the bottom without facing those harrowing turns. Old Priest Grade took me down with a certain swiftness on the diagonal. I avoided the hairpin curves and the sight of sharp drops and staggering vistas.
I spent most of the day in my car, driving past enormous beauty, clutches of holiday tourists, and small town folks just going about their business. I had a mediocre lunch in Angel’s Camp, in a cafe owned by apparent anti-maskers, one of whom declaimed to a man at the counter that they didn’t believe in the damned virus anyway. A family across the aisle finished their food rather quickly, pushed their masks back over their faces, and paid their bill. The father winked at me on the way out the door.
I stopped at a flea market and bought a small present to add to my son’s birthday box. The proprietor had a mild cardiac incident while I shopped. He collapsed into his chair and dug a pill out of a brown bottle. He, too, wore no mask. He, too, had spontaneously expressed disgust at the powers-that-be who dictated such mandates for “no good reason”. When I asked if I could help him, concerned about the sheen of perspiration on his forehead and his grey pallor, he told me that the pill would work. To my question, he replied, “I don’t know what it is, something the doctor gave me.” I did not comment on the irony.
I came into the park just after four. My neighbor stood in her garden, feeding her many plants. She complimented my hat. We talked about hummingbirds and birthdays and the shock of having adult children. I bade her good evening and went inside to take off my boots and see if I had gotten any good photos, knowing that I had taken so few. I hurried down from the lofty elevation too quickly to record the terrifying beauty of the place.
The day convinced me that I’m not meant to live so far above sea level. As I sat on my porch this evening, a mourning dove called from the wires over the levee road. A boat sounded its horn out on the river, probably coming into a slip at our marina. Baby birds chirped from somewhere behind me. I live in a lovely place, quite magical in its own way. I might stay here for many years. But if I leave, it will not be for a mountain retreat. My own heart cannot take the challenge.
It’s the thirtieth day of the eighty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.