Early yesterday morning, at about 6:30, we left the house for a day out, away from the projects and chores that have occupied our weekends for most of the summer. We used to do this often on Sunday mornings, but between painting the inside of our house and landscaping the front yard we haven’t had the time or energy to drag ourselves out the door before dawn. We like to take photographs in the morning, and the only way to make that happen is to leave the house at omigod o’clock in order to be somewhere beautiful at sunrise or shortly thereafter.
Our destination yesterday was a few hours north of where we live, a valley with a small town and not much else. We drove up a mostly empty freeway for two hours, a little more than half-way, and stopped for coffee and scones in a small town known mostly for its secluded gardens and surreptitious harvest. It’s apparently a fairly trusting town even with all that going on. The man in line behind us at the coffee counter left his car running in the parking lot well out of his sight. Or maybe he was too stoned to realize he should have turned it off and taken the keys with him. Either way, it was still there when he got back.
We didn’t stop again until we were well out the road that twists and bends alongside the Eel River. The air is sweet and clean in this part of California. And so quiet that the sound of wind brushing through tree tops is a wonder.
There weren’t many cars on the road, and the only people we saw in the valley looked to be hunters gathered around a truck, maybe planning their hunt. We drove through the quick blink of town, turned around at the far end and headed back the way we’d come. It was never our plan to stop. We just wanted to see what was there, check out the scenery to see if it was really as pretty as we’d heard. We do that sometimes, drive out a road we’ve never been on just because we’re curious.
Maybe we’re lucky, or possibly just easily amused, but every time we point the car in a direction and pay attention, we find magic. Not the kind that knocks our socks off, not usually anyway, but the kind of magic that reminds us that the world, the earth, is an amazing place and we’re lucky to be here.
In the course of our travels yesterday we saw several squirrels; there’s nothing out of the ordinary about a squirrel, but they make me smile. Good enough. A small flock of wild turkeys half flew across the road in front of our car. They’re so much prettier - a bit majestic really – than domestic turkeys. Several deer picked their way along a rocky river beach. We watched them until they rounded a bend. And we were lucky, and alert enough, to spot a family of river otters playing and sunning themselves on warm rocks. We stood at the side of the road taking turns with the binoculars, counting (six of them), and watching until they slipped back into the cool water and swam away.
On our way home we stopped at a winery to eat the grocery store sandwiches we’d bought earlier in the day. It was a pretty place to have lunch and then make a purchase to add to the tiny little
cellar closet we keep. We were home again by mid-afternoon, relaxed and more ready to tackle the next phase of home improvement projects in their due time. And we’ll remember, for a long time, that it’s a good thing to play and warm ourselves in the sun.