walk out whole

I lost the first iteration of this post between computers. That seems like a fitting start for the new blog, but we don’t need to get into that just yet. Let’s go hiking.

This time last week I was winding down a week in the Midwest with my oldest friend. We packed a lot into seven days – rivers, lakes, little towns, a road trip, cheese (Wisconsin doesn’t mess around with cheese). We celebrated her birthday, a cross-country move, and seventeen years of friendship. We processed the end of a relationship and the beginning of a new life. It was one of those weeks that we will talk about forever.

On the fourth of July, I flew back to California, to my little apartment, back to just me again. The only things waiting for me were bills and a hit-the-ground-running situation at work. In the space of a few hours I’d gone from a huge lovefest to the fetal position, weighed down by the gravity of the last year of my life. I got home Wednesday evening. By Friday afternoon, all I could think about was standing in front of the ocean and screaming into the surf.

I woke up early Saturday morning, grabbed some trail food, a camera, and my journal, and headed up the coast toward Point Reyes. The park holds a special place in my heart and my history. I was five or so the first time I remember camping there (and at all); my parents took my brothers and I on a backcountry trip to Wildcat Camp. It was only a couple of miles each way, but I remember how excited and strong I felt to be carrying everything I needed to live in a pack on my back. (Maybe not everything – I carried my clothes, sleeping bag, and teddy bear. Thanks, Mom & Dad, for picking up the slack!) Over the years I’ve returned to the park many times. No matter how I feel when I walk in, I always walk out feeling whole.

This trip was no exception. By the time I pulled up to the trailhead I was smiling. Four miles to the ocean; I left my headphones in my bag and let my mind spin a soundtrack out of song fragments and memories. I stopped to take photos; I’d forgotten how vibrant the woods are when you aren’t absorbed in a conversation or trying to keep up with anyone other than yourself. I’d forgotten how hard it is to be self-absorbed when a breeze makes the canopy dance.

Eventually, the ocean. Fog obscured the sun from about half a mile out, right where the waves hit my ears. It stayed warm. Other hikers littered the beach, so I turned off followed a winding trail along the bluff, passing occupied lookout points and pushing deeper into the brush. The trail narrowed, then widened again at each blackberry bush; I picked a handful and sang out loud just in case I was poking through a bear’s private stash.

On my way back I found a vacant clearing and sat down. The drive to scream was gone; my demons hadn’t needed an exorcism, they’d needed sweet ripe blackberries and balmy weather. I focused my camera on a group of cormorants drying their wings on a rock offshore and the viewfinder filled up with a flock of brown pelicans passing a few feet in front of me. They took my breath away; I missed the photo. I pulled out my journal to record the moment and missed a photo of the second group that passed just as close. Some things are best left to memory.

I took the long way back, climbing Sky Trail up into the hills. As I reached the top, I turned for a last look out at the water. The fog had lifted.


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