How about a hiatus from the anecdotes involving spectacular sunsets and dogs wagging tails. A pause on recalling the mayhem caused by exuberant Australians toting beers. No mention of German couples appearing for dinner with Many Bottles Of Wine, nor a snicker about the persuasive pastor from Utah. Let the bnb stuff fade to black for a sec.
About 10 days ago I returned to Hiouchi from San Francisco. The last leg of the last trip to the Bay. I won’t be returning for a while. On arrival home I was greeted by a wife, a dog, neighbors and guests. I returned to a slow-moving and warm-as-tea river. To the fading wisps of smokey summer mornings. To a sooner than usual cooling that suggested an early fall (my favorite season by the way). To crispy, clear-sky mornings and wind in the upper canopy. I’ve always loved windy days.
Late July, August, and early September were almost equally split between San Francisco and Hiouchi. Life seemed hard. Pain was a shadow. I tried to bring rational thinking to the problems that needed solving but it all fell apart in the end. To lose a loved one is to be mad with regret, meanness, and then just a blankness not even sleep can fill. I dwelt on the negative and created demons I could beat a stick against. Of course, I turned myself into the center of this badder world in order to legitimize the largeness of my personal burdens. I was the one still living but I became the victim. Talk about a distorted reality.
The counterpoint in emotions and energy that I faced on returning to Hiouchi was a stark reminder that I might be alone in my thoughts but I wasn’t alone in this world. A benefit to running a bnb in the redwood forest is that, by gosh, people are happy in this place. They smile at you in the morning. They drink their coffee like it’s mother’s milk. They look out at a wall of trees across the river as if they’ve just been released from solitary confinement. They sit at a broad, tiled table under a high, sloping roof, take a spoon of granola,and then turn around in their chairs and ask, “you made this?” They’ve been unleashed from their cars, careers and cares; traded newspapers for maps and haven’t read a damn thing about earthquakes in Texas, Hillary’s prospects or John Boehner’s next steps. Wouldn’t give a holler they did.
So I’m back. And in these moments when judges, professors, web architects, car salesmen, girlfriends, boyfriends, and ad execs lose themselves in the baked eggs or cold beers, I find myself tagging along for the ride. Invariably every guest offers me something to lean into. Some new idea. Some new perspective. Ballast that anchors against whatever hard winds that blow. I often hear my inner voice say something along the lines of, “I want some of that bliss, some of that unfettered joy, some of that awe.” All I usually have to do is pull up a chair and, boom, the bon temps they do roulez.
In the span of one week-plus back I’ve met families that clicked, couples in the midst of courtship, bucket-list types celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, Brits, Aussies, Dutch, New Englanders, Finns, stateside gringos, expats back for a dose of home and one of the most spectacularly informed kids I’ve ever met. No, I’m not gonna cry but it’s been a much-welcomed landing on these fair banks.
One thing I’ve learned these past years is not to tell the whole story. Like you haven’t heard it before? And some folks have it worse. They come west to forget, or at least to move on. Well, me too.
These are my parents, Arthur and Rhoda. Call them semi-permanent guests at the bnb because they keep invading my dreams. Arthur never visited. Rhoda on the other hand was here for two special weeks in January. You won’t see them when you visit but their spirit and my memory of them live on. You would have liked them.