Sometimes it’s difficult to vacation on vacation.
There was a certain other-worldness to our week at Camp Spofford. I left the laptop at home. I was in a new place with new people. I was able- at least during the day- to forget my life and all its problems: a true and timely vacation.
But here… in a wonderful way, in returning to where I was a born, where I was a child- and the homeland of my parents and grandparents- I feel more in tune than ever with all that has made me who I am. There is no escape into alternative selves here. Instead I am bombarded with memories from the past and I incessantly think of the future- of next semester at college- and of January when I transfer.
My sister seems to feel the same way. We were sitting in the spa- slowly cooking ourselves in the hot water and in the brilliant, harsh sun. “It is hard to just be.” she said. She too constantly thinks of the future. It is difficult to just take in the moment.
In California- and so often unable to take in the moment. I fear missing these moments. Already I feel there have been moments not fully appreciated- already in the ever growing past.
Such thoughts as these played in my head last night as I gazed up alone at the night sky outside my grandparent’s house in Santa Rosa. The sky is a curious black in California- verging on purple, hinting of legions- almost misty. It is of that impossibly large quality peculiar to the flatlands. And despite the street lights (again, unique to suburbia), stars still shown down on my bare feet and upturned eyes. I felt, as I looked at it, that there is no sky like it- and how could I have forgotten it- and how could I possibly remember it?
I ran- across the grass and down the cooling pavement in the moonlight- thinking. And suddenly lights from an approaching car stopped me in my tracks and I stood very, very still (abashed, as I was, to be caught alone and dancing at night on a sidewalk) next to a bush (which resulted in my getting many sharp needles in my feet) till they had passed and pulled into a driveway not too far away. I began to walk as inconspicuously as possible away from them when I heard some, well, rather unmistakable noises. I turned- and in the corner driveway stood the elderly couple just gotten out of the car- locked in each other's arms kissing. I stood, transfixed for a few moments watching this peculiar scene- then realized it would be very awkward if I was caught and moved on. I glanced back a few minutes later and they were still at it. (My grandparents informed me that their respective spouses were friends and had died and since then they've been going steady for three years.)
Such tender love on such a tender night. The stars themselves were smiling. I smiled back- and the words from a song (which seems to be the melody that themes this vacation) -a stirring, wistful rendition of Over The Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole- played in my head. Someday I’ll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me…
Such are the moments that make up days. A beautiful young mother, pregnant with her third daughter, at the pool. All the old ladies- second grade teachers and navy men’s wives- with their twinkling eyes and smiles- all of them jams (sweet, pink, and preserved). These are the details I commit to paper- in haste lest the memory loose its potency- in hopes that I won’t forget.
I see fields of gold- grass turned to royal repose in the heat of summer.
I see trees- scattered and rising from the golden dunes. They are short and squat clusters of green- their gangly arms like the disproportionate limbs of trolls- weighted down and dragging on the floor.
“If this is going to run around in my head, I might as well be dreaming…” (Nickel Creek)
I hear the sound of my Grandpa’s voice- as he prayed over our first meal here- thanking our good Lord for each of us- so special to him. And I sense- rather than see- my grandmother, like a ministering angel, doing the dishes as we climbed into bed- doing the laundry after we’re all sleep- and turning off the last light. (I was several times awake- my mind racing- late into the night. I wish I had joined her.) And I see her- her hand over her mouth- hiding something, or keeping something down- as she waved good-bye in the middle of the street as we drove away.
And as I write this- that last memory brings the tears streaming down my face. The back of my throat burns.