I thought I was going to California to encourage an old friend who was enduring an impossible situation, but it turned out that I needed encouragement too. After six weeks of one unexpected blow after another--my car wreck, my nephew's death, a storm that wiped out our phone lines, another storm that wiped out our driveway--combined with all the chaos and hubbub of the end of the semester, I really needed to spend a few days playing Scrabble, walking around gardens, eating marvelous food, and talking talking talking with someone who has known me longer than almost anyone else in my life.
We focused on absorbing beauty in many forms: poppies and peacocks and sweet peas, riots of roses and camellias, acorn woodpeckers tending a nest in a hole in a tree, and even a plant my daughter insists is euphorbia even though it looks like fabric for a little girl's gingham dress.
One day we sat in a rose garden talking about our mothers, both formidable women who loved roses, endured difficulties, and exercised patience that sometimes verged on the heroic. Remember that time when we painted the kitchen? We smiled. If strangers came into your kitchen while you were out of town and painted it without your knowledge--and then ate a porterhouse steak you'd been saving for a special occasion--you would call the police to report vandalism. But that didn't happen to us.
Another day we visited a glorified roadside stand called Casa de Fruta, where visitors can ride the Casa de Choo Choo or pan for gold at Casa de Sluice or fill up with gas at Case de Diesel (or Casa de Burrito); we passed the time in the car by writing a jingle for Casa de Fruta that somehow did not include a malamute wearing a Carmen Miranda hat, and we agreed that it would be ridiculous to name an establishment selling band instruments Casa de Glockenspiel, or to start a fan club for a former Partridge Family star and call it Casa de Cassidy, but no other name could so perfectly suit the wonder that is Casa de Fruta.
One evening we ate dinner at a ritzy restaurant where my friend's son is sous chef, where dishes we hadn't ordered kept appearing at our table and making us ooh and aah over their deliciousness. I've never had a more amazing meal, but even more amazing was seeing a talented young man find his niche and exercise his gifts with such panache. It's good to be reminded that eventually our children do grow up and make us proud, and it was also good to see a son so clearly proud to serve his mother.
Now I'm back on campus and when friends ask what I did in California, I find I don't have much to say: I played Scrabble. I looked at roses. I ate great food. But when I look at the photos I took, all I can see is peace.
Exactly what I didn't know I needed.
|Invading space aliens?|
|Looks like peach sherbet.|
|He looks like he dipped his beak too far into a vat of chocolate.|
|Tree framed by mulberry leaves.|
|Pomegranate bud (above) and blossoms (below).|