california life

Weekend Miscellany

30 August 2010


[The Golden Gate from Baker Beach, August 2010.]

Oh California, this weekend you were so nice. You gave us lots of sunshine and cool breezes and a bit of fog just along the coast yesterday, but not too much. And today you are sunny and lovely again, and I am glad.

Things I did:

-Baked four cakes, because I have a Baking Addiction
-Attended two birthday parties (age difference between the birthday girls: 69 years)
-Drank a Pimm’s Cup
-Shot a pellet gun
-Played with various dogs
-Ran 13 miles in the Seashore to Arch Rock and back and along the Coast Trail
-Had an iced coffee at Toby’s
-Made quinoa soup
-Ate a lot of cake

It was a weekend of drinking the last drops out of the days and still going to bed early. These are the best kind of weekends: the ones that go by too quickly, but which somehow leave you fill to the very brim and satiated, for once, on the outdoors.


[Guinness-chocolate cake, August 2010.]

My friend Kate and I like to joke about this old Lufthansa ad that used to run in the Washington, DC, Metro. It showed a guy sitting on an airplane, comfy and cozy as airplanes are so very seldom wont to be (well, you know he was sitting in business/first class which I can say from gleeful experience is really the best; thank-you, Lufthansa, for that sweet upgrade you gave me five years ago on my way back from Thessaloniki), either reading the (complimentary) newspaper or tapping away on his laptop or or or. You almost wanted to be on the plane yourself, so relaxed and happy did he look — surely nowhere on solid ground could compare. The caption read, All for this one moment.

Well, we’ve snickered over that phrase for years. What did it mean exactly? we asked ourselves. We knew what it meant in theory, of course, but were they kidding that sitting on a plane hurtling through the atmosphere en route to parts unknown (the Maldives, perhaps, or, you know, Dulles, Va.) was enough to compensate for the stress of travel? Is Lufthansa really that good? All the money you have to pay for a first-class ticket worth it all for this one moment??

How silly. How over-the-top. How slightly ridiculous.

But then again this weekend was full of little bits of all for this one moment moments — like when Miss Ruby J blew out the four candles on her birthday cake (the birthday cake I’d baked for her). Or when my favorite black lab gave me a kiss when I hugged him good-bye. Or when I watched 50+ people happily devouring all the cakes I’d baked (the disaster that was my kitchen on Friday afternoon becoming entirely justified). Or when I had a beer on the deck in the sun, my legs good and tired from all that running. Or the way the wind felt at Baker Beach on Saturday morning — like vacation, like childhood.

Maybe Lufthansa was on to something after all, darn them.


[After, Inverness, August 2010.]

Speaking of moments, on Saturday I went for a sunset walk through a cow field just as the fog was coming down over the ridge. It wasn’t too cold just yet and the air smelled of dirt and dry grass — California summer smells, which have meant this season to me for as long as I can remember (this June the green shock of New England reminded me this is an anomaly; in other places the trees are lush and full and grass stays lush and green for most of the year until it’s covered up by snow). It is so very dry here in the summer and I forget that sometimes when I am marooned in the damp, white-fogged city: north, the hills are pale gold and still, marked here and there by drooping oak trees.

The place where I went walking on Saturday wasn’t marked so much by oak trees as it was by cows — black ones (what is the name of them, again?), with lots of calves — and cypress trees. It was dusty and quiet, with just a few lights coming from a campground a mile or so away and barely on the edge of sundown. No one was about. I felt like it could have been any time at all — 2010, 1910, even farther back than that, and what would those fields have been like then. My belly was full of fruit salad and cucumber-tomato salad and vegetarian ‘sausages’ and so much cake I was glad for that little bit of exercise; it felt like camping and just before and home.

On the way back it got dark quickly. I thought about mountain lions, and all the wild creatures settling in for the night, and was grateful the person walking along with me knew those woods and that place; I would not have wished for anyone else to be my companion in that near-dark of late August. We walked comfortably along, picking up the pace the darker it got. Dry branches cracked underfoot and I hoped for Indian Summer still to come despite the fall-feeling in the air. No stars, because of the fog and I thought —

But then I stopped thinking. I pushed aside the trepidation of my long run the next day. I forgot about all the things to do this week. I didn’t let myself feel my sleepiness. I ducked under the gate that led back up the hill and bid the velvety-eyed cows a good night (and promised to come back). The breeze was cool against my skin and if not for the late hour I think I could have stayed watching the fog move determinedly in from the coast — then again, there was another piece of Guinness chocolate cake to be had and a fire in the fireplace and a dog to pat.

It was a fitting end to a very fine day.

All for this one moment, indeed.

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me
she took me back so tenderly
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.

All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

~ Mary Oliver

  • Lisa 3 September 2010 at 8:03 pm

    Oh, Nicole, you squeeze every last luscious bit of beauty out of your days (like fresh juice, not choking!). I love reading your words, so much.

  • lisa 31 August 2010 at 3:04 pm

    you’re such a beautiful writer. i heart you!

  • Maddie 31 August 2010 at 7:33 am

    I’m flying Lufthansa this weekend, and after the month I’ve had, I’m really hoping I feel like that ultra-relaxed guy in the ad!

    However that turns out, reading about your weekend definitely put a smile on my face. Sounds like it was filled with good, visceral activities like cooking and running, and spending time outdoors and with loved ones is the icing on the cake (if you will).

  • kate. 30 August 2010 at 5:29 pm

    you are truth and wonder and i am so very lucky to have you as my dear friend. lovekate.

  • John C Abell 30 August 2010 at 3:55 pm

    “It was a weekend of drinking the last drops out of the days and still going to bed early. These are the best kind of weekends: the ones that go by too quickly, but which somehow leave you fill to the very brim and satiated, for once, on the outdoors.”

    Sorry,I don’t have a better comment …