Man, what a great trip to Cali on several levels. I’ve speckled the writing with just a FEW of the amazing murals in Eureka. Many of them courtesy of beloved Humboldt artist Duane Flatmo.
A friend of mine named him Barney at one point, and it works for me, so I’ll call my daughter’s father Barney. Well, as I so dramatically pointed out earlier this year, Barney decided to move back to California. His original intent was to take our daughter with him. I fought it like a wildcat, and thousands of dollars and six months later, Barney is in California, and she is back in Portland with me. We had decided to split the summer. He got the first half so that she could move down there with him, and into the girlfriend’s house. She got to set up her room and visit her old friends in Eureka and get a sense of where her dad would be. My half of the summer began Thursday, and I was there at 9:00 am to pick her up (yes, I was a bit eager).
Because of such an early start from Portland, I rolled into Eureka Wednesday afternoon, and as I passed beneath the familiar stands of eucalyptus and breathed in the wet salty air coming across the bay and brushing through the leaves making the most delicious smell, I realized that I had happened upon a rare gorgeous day on the North Coast. My girl had been texting me about every 5 minutes since Crescent City, so instead of heading to Margaret’s, I went straight to her house. I asked Barney if it was ok to take the girls to the beach and everybody was game. The girlfriend has a daughter the same age as mine. We played on the warm sands at Samoa Beach and had a grand time. I took them to Pachanga for dinner, then dropped the girls off at Barney’s.
I made my happy way on over to Lost Coast and some free WiFi and picked up a case of my fave beer: Downtown Brown, complete with wacky label art from aforementioned Duane Flatmo. Down the hill to Fortuna in time to take a shower before Margaret and John got home. I had a lovely visit with my old friends. Margaret is as amazing as ever. Effervescent even in times of some life challenges right now. She is beautiful and generous and always a kind friend and excellent hostess. While I was chatting with John, she got a phone call from a Mexican friend, and we listened to her giddiup her way through a phone call in someone else’s native language. She laughed when she hung up, “She barely speaks English and I barely speak Spanish, so we have funny conversations.”
When I met Margaret, she did not speak Spanish. The next morning there were lots of hugs and best wishes and Margaret was in her UPS uniform. She started a brand new UPS store in Fortuna less than a year ago, and it’s going gangbusters. She said it’s hard to manage the store and also teach four days a week at College of the Redwoods, which she also just started. What a woman.
I picked up my girl from Barney’s and off we went. First order of business: get some new surf gear to fit my growing girl. I needed new gloves too, because my old ones were wearing thin. We headed up north to Trinidad beach despite the gloomy fog which I knew would hit – to make the locals pay for the gorgeous sunshine the day before.
We stopped for a quick hello to Bob at the Tribal Offices at Cher-ae Heights, ate at the Trinidad Bay Eatery and made our way to Moonstone Beach. Trinidad had a little magic in store for us, and by the time we hit the beach we were blasted with sunshine and blue skies, while Eureka remained socked in. We played in the water about two hours. Near the end, a seal came out to play with us. We were the only two in the water with the seal. It was the first time I had seen a seal so close while surfing. At one point, she blasted through the water right between my daughter and me. I didn’t see it, but she did, which is better. How exciting. I had a heart-thumping thought in the back of my head that when the White Sharks up here accidentally bite people, they’re really after the seals, but I was wise enough to keep that in my own head, and let my girlie just experience the thrill.
It’s been so long since I surfed, I had lost touch with the sea. It took a long time before enough of that salty water pounded through my hair and tumbled across my body, that finally the worries washed away too. Seagulls swooped across the sky, the seal kept popping up – her black shiny nose covered in long whiskers – and the sun lit up white froth in the crashing waves. If I stare out west long enough, my world gets simpler. The only critical data coming in is the quality of the swell, and maybe how cold my toes are. Other than that, I feel blissful joy in that my whole world becomes the feeling of bobbing in the cold water, the blue-green stained glass of sun through the peak of a wave, the salt in my mouth, the scratchy neoprene of my glove when I brush hair out of my eyes, and sparkles everywhere. Sparkling jeweled water. Sparkling squeals of delight from my daughter, Sparkling cries of the gulls. Sparkling joy inside me.
We hit 101 south again and spent a great visit with my dearest friend. I first met her online, and it was love at first type. Her online name was Ophelia Red, and now I’ve even got her in my address book under “O” for Ophelia, even though neither her first or last name begin with an o. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so happy. She said she doesn’t think she’s ever felt so happy in her life. That is a great thing to hear from a friend. She was full of smiles and love and peace. Ophelia and I shared some wine while she made a gigantic batch of enchiladas in order to have food in the house in the coming week. Her daughter was mostly quiet but when she did open up, showed that she’s a lovely young lady inside as much as out.
Ophelia’s house is packed with art. She says what gives her joy is that her living room is mostly art given to her by friends. Yes, there is something of mine on her wall too: a cast of my face, so I can be with her always, and trimmed in dried plants because I’m an Earth-girl faery sprite. She talked about her work with Humboldt Pride and mostly her work in the Impropriety Society. One of her ongoing projects is The Yoni Endeavor, in which she works with women to build yoni sculptures as part of both a healing exercise, and also a way to love ALL parts of our beautiful female bodies. With dozens of ceramic yonis on the walls, in paint, in sculpture, and in metal, there is no way not to be in love with being female there.
The last time I was at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, it was midday and hot, and I didn’t get to see many of the animals. I thought if we hit it in the morning we might have better luck. In any case, that thought led me to hit the road directly after leaving Ophelia’s. My girlie got into her jammies and off we went. I was doing some serious nodding by Grants Pass, so I found a road out of the way, and pulled over to zonk out for awhile. We got into Winston in time for breakfast, and I pulled into a little café that looked perfect because the parking lot was jammed and there were a bunch of white caps in there. It was exactly as expected: many old crusty dudes who all knew each other, and a friendly waitress named Dee who hugged everybody who walked in. While we sat there, new people would mosey on in the door, and people in beat up ballcaps would barely nod as the newcomer would drag out a chair and move in on their table. “Mornin’ Merl.” “Howdy Ted.” Man, I love that stuff. We got pancakes, hash browns, an omelet, some more eggs, bacon and a Belgian waffle. Ummmmm. The bathroom in the back was at the edge of the A-frame, so one wall sloped and did not allow me to stand erect. My daughter was impressed with all of it, “This restaurant is perfect!” she announced.
We pulled in too early to Wildlife Safari, and my kid read from her new book while we waited. It’s to help answer questions so going into Middle School isn’t so scary. It’s sort of a weird concept to me: Middle School. There was no such thing when I was a kid in Idaho. We had Junior High, which was 7th and 8th grade. Sixth graders were elementary school.
Finally! We had access and were delighted all the way through. Wildlife Safari is sort of like a zoo, but there are no “cages” per se. It’s gigantic, and the animals roam the hills and forests. It’s divided into portions named after the continent the animals come from: Africa, Asia, the Americas. We saw so many great creatures, and my girl helped by taking most of the photos.
One of our first sights was of giraffes at horseplay. They stood right next to each other with feet splayed, and pushed their butts up against each other, trying to shove each other aside. Sort of like you might see siblings in the back seat of the car do. Then they would swing their long necks down hard and ram their heads against each other’s chests. We were so close we heard the thump! each time they did it. Very funny.
There was a lot of horseplay going on in there. A baby Bison was butting his momma, thump thump thump, and she just dug in and leaned back at him, pretending not to notice, so she wouldn’t encourage the behavior. I could imagine her thoughts might be similar to many other mothers of boys. The brown bears were rollicking down by their pond. One had its paw around the other next to it, and they wrestled and bared their teeth at each other. It was priceless when the one got tired and rested his big bear head on top of the other’s head.
Lots of babies too. We saw a baby zebra, and lots of baby cattle- and deer-cousins (sorry, can’t name all those critters). Our favourites were the baby rheas who ran into the road after their mom. She is eight feet tall; they are more like eight inches tall.
Ahhh, such a rewarding stop. We piled into the car again. My girl laid her seat back and took a nap, and I stayed awake all the way home. I love it that when I come home, I come to Portland.