The hardest thing

I’ve never been accused of spontaneity.  So I startled myself by turning right instead of left on the way home yesterday.

My two days at the coast had invigorated me.  I draw strength from the sea.  I had sat in the reach of her voice.  The coast line changes a little at a time but I recognize its contours.  The trees might be further bent under the force of the wind.  The sands might fall more and more beneath the waves.  But the rocks do not yield.  The gulls still gather.  The lighthouse rises just as majestically.  The long expanse of ice plants still covers the yard outside of Dolphin House, and the song of the Pacifc still lulls me to sleep.

On a whim, I left HIghway 4 long before the Rio Vista exit yesterday.   I followed the signs for Mt. Diablo State Park.  I have wanted to see the mountain since I first came to the Delta in September of 2017.  Her constant presence watches over us.  I look westward on my way to work, comforted by the sight of her through the mist, or beneath the dazzling sun.  I drive like crazy to watch the last rays of light dance across her noble surface as dusk falls on the Delta.

Let me say this, at the outset.  I am deathly afraid of heights.  Yes, I understood that Mt. Diablo rose high above sea level.  But somehow, I failed to imagine the treacherous road to the south entrance of the park.  

I gripped the steering wheel in panic.  Every fear, every failure, every sorrow rose in my breast.  Choice after choice on the game board of life haunted me.  The paths not taken; loves lost and forfeit.  How could I have been so incredibly stupid as to bring myself to this moment, alone on a mountainside, alone, the world’s worst St. Louis driver inching her way skyward with a sheer drop to her right and her face covered with a salty swathe of sweat mingling with tears? Why did I so blithely, so willingly, so carelessly embark on the hardest thing for me, driving to somewhere so high?  I’m the person whose five-year-old son had to hold her hand as we climbed to the cheap seats at the ballpark!

A line of cars gathered behind me.  I could feel their impatience.  I knew they wanted me to increase my speed but I did not dare.  My hands shook.  The voice with which I cried out to the angels quavered.  Over and over, I moaned into the stale air of the closed car, I want to go home!

Eventually, I arrived at the entrance.  I paid the admission fee and pulled into a fifteen-minute parking space.  I nearly fell from the car.  I stood at the back of the vehicle, tearing chunks of bread from my morning’s loaf and feeding myself the lunch which I should have had before I left the coast.  My trembling stopped, finally, mercifully.

I did not go to the summit.  I placed the heart for my friend Beth Lewandowski’s son Xander on a trail post at 2000 feet elevation.  I took a few photos of the view which Xander would have so loved, had he lived to make this climb.  I knew he would have biked that road without trepidation.  I tried to channel a little of Xander’s spirit.

Then I crept back to the driver’s seat, clinging to my vehicle.  I started forward and followed the road until its fork.  This time, I turned left.   Gratefully, gradually, I descended to the North Gate and the road home.

It’s the eighteenth day of the sixty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

This gallery includes pictures from my drive to Mt. Diablo State Park, from the beach at Pescadero, and from the hostel at  Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

4 thoughts on “The hardest thing

  1. Anne Orso

    Oh my gosh! I would have been the same…I’m not really afraid of heights…just cliffs with drop offs! I was routing for you through your story. Glad you are safe and don’t ever do that again. Haha.

  2. Beth

    How beautifully you have described the trepidation of moving outside of one’s comfort zone, and the act of bravery it represents. You were rewarded with an indelible experience (and wonderful photos as proof). Thank you for sharing, and taking Xander on this journey. <3X

    1. Marjorie Carter

      Beth, of course Corinne is a friend of yours! I have been following her blog off and on for several months, but I had no idea she was a fellow St. Louisan. I was so surprised and delighted to see your name and Xander’s name in her post today. The world is just a small town, isn’t it?


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