unexpected. I should have that routine down pat by
now. Apparently I haven't. Yesterday afternoon, when
we came to a rolling stop, I was surprised, taken aback even.
DD and I were
mid-way up the mountain, just 20 miles away, mere minutes away
from our mountain home. We were at a standstill, stuck
behind a long, long line of vehicles. Gridlocked!
accident," I guessed.
laced with fear-inducing bits and pieces of high-alert news
reports of anthrax-laced mail and subsequent infections,
surveillance of dams and water supplies, and the imminence, not
the mere possibility, of further terrorists attacks, then leaped
forward to the dam, conjuring up this conclusion:
"The dam has been hit."
Something that I have not REALLY felt since the tragedies of
9-11-01. For a fleeting moment, but a felt moment,
As the reason for
the roadblock rippled down the line of cars, from the look of the
reactions, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My worst fear
was not being realized. Folks ahead of us were calmly
receiving the news, then getting out of their cars for a stretch,
taking in the mountain scenery, visiting with one another, and
walking their dogs.
We were told:
"There's a fire. Near the dam."
But there was no
tell-tale trails of smoke in the sky. It wasn't, apparently, a raging fire.
Likely a roadside fire from a carelessly tossed cigarette?
As a precaution, the road was closed, maybe to 8 pm, they said.
Knowing all three
alternate routes up the mountain, we made our U-turn and chose to
get down the mountain and then take the scenic, but windier and
longer, route back up from the side of the mountain. With
the sprawling metropolis at our feet, we made the most of our
abrupt rerouting, by thoroughly enjoying the view as we made our
way down the mountain.
Earlier, in a hurry
to get to the "madding quiet" -- the tranquillity -- of
the mountains, we'd skipped lunch, thinking we'd have a late one
on the front porch when we got up. I was famished, and when
we got to the bottom of the mountain, we stopped for a couple of
Subway sandwiches. Freshly made, they were delicious. With
fueled bodies, we hit the roads with renewed vigor.
Sometimes, it is
possible to find the clearest, most poignant wisdom in the most
unexpected of events. And so it was on our way back up the
mountain. A roadblock. A detour. An alternate
route. A revitalized awareness of the beauty along the way.
You see, we are two
urban-weary folks. Every
100-mile trip up to our mountain home fills us with anticipation
to be there, and without a second thought, we take the same route,
the quickest one. In a hurry to get out of town, we are so stuck
on getting up the mountain with its open spaces and fresh air that
we ignore the journeying.
Over these eleven
years, the quickest route up the mountain has become a familiar,
well-beaten one. Anymore, without conscious awareness, we
anticipate and lean into the tight curves. We automatically crane for the
beautiful scenes right around the next corner. We easily transition
from shallow city breathing to deep mountain breathing at the
first vanilla scent from the sugar pines. We squint ahead
for that first glimpse on the distant horizon of the blue jewel
nestled in the mountains that is our mountain lake.
The route is so
familiar that sometimes we no longer look. The Same Old, Same Old
Syndrome. And worse, sometimes, we look out of habit, but we
forget to see. You know, REALLY see.
roadblock was the unexpected gift. By taking "the
road less travelled," we looked. We saw. We were
appreciating the beauty and marvels of nature surrounding us,
delighting in what we were seeing on this alternate
salt-and-pepper granite patterns.
The dramatic jutting of
striated sedimentary rock.
Huge boulders basking in the mountain
The verdant green of the dense forest, juxtaposed against
the blueness of the sky.
The rocky river bed.
alongside us, tumbling down the mountain, making its way to the
A tranquil river valley.
The coolness of
an alpine forest.
Stands of pine trees, creating a tapestry of varied green hues and
textures against the hillsides.
The humble headwaters of
the mighty Santa Ana River.
Mount San Gorgonio, up close
The subtle shades of fall at the base
that graduated to autumn vibrancy at the higher
We recalled how we
had promised ourselves, a few years ago, to take this route
in the fall again. We had forgotten our promise. And
because of an unexpected roadblock, we were being given a second
chance to make good on a promise made. We were seeing
We arrived at
Heaven on Earth, our mountain home, more invigorated than usual,
with a few rays of late afternoon sunlight left.
brief, but very real, moment of fear, earlier in the day, I
decided to take a weekend hiatus from the television and the news
of the world. My sweet Pili (my body self) is concerned
about its survival and who can blame it. It would be child
abuse to subject it to any more fear-provokers, doing all of us a
Not aware of my
TV/news moratorium, DD turned on the TV. Huell was on
TV. Huell Howser. Huell is a California
phenomenon. Growing on us over many, many years of watching
his shows, Huell feels like family, and is always welcomed into
our home via his show.
I pluck on harp
strings because of Huell. I look for hot springs and desert
oases because of Huell. I smell roses more deeply because of
Huell. I appreciate the wonderment of koi because of Huell.
I experienced a mile-high pie because of Huell.
It's actually a
synchronistic wonder how we connect with Huell. We don't go
out of our way to watch his show. We never know when he's on. We
"just happen" upon his show, as we're surfing the
channels, and we always stop to watch when we see it's Huell on
the screen. He utterly charms us, every time. And he
is always an unexpected gift.
How do you begin to
describe Huell's magnetism? He's very folksy. Very
down home. With an accent to match. Definitely not
Californian. Californians have none. Maybe a Texas drawl? He's tall and brawny enough to be
your classic Texas dude. Wherever he's from, his drawl is Southern, for
His is a two-man
show. Just Huell and the cameraman, Lui. Except for
one show about doughnuts, you never see Lui. Just Huell.
But Huell's shows are not about him
at all, although his personality fills up the screen in a most
congenial way. He's a man on a quest to discover the jewels
of California and sharing his out-of-the-way finds with us, his
viewing audience. His show is aptly named,
Huell takes us on
roads less travelled. Off the beaten path.
Early on in the
show, he was talking about a Giant Rock, the world's largest
free-standing boulder in the high desert of Southern
California. I was engrossed in the reading of a
mind-boggling Marciniak passage, so I was half-way paying
attention to Huell, when he started talking about the Integratron,
a fascinating structure in Landers built by a visionary, my full
attention was engaged.
"Beam me up,
Instead, today, was
Pili's day, as well as A Day for The Whole Family. The gift today
was mine to give. I was going to give my undivided attention
to my family here at Heaven-on-Earth and My Family in Heaven, just
a veil-wisp away.
With our dogkids,
DD and I took a long, meandering walk along the high roads, the
low roads, and the byways of our mountaintop peninsula. We
breathing deeply, almost to the point of windedness, as we were
being refreshed by autumn coolness to keep going on and on.
We paused to admire the burnished golds and the fiery reds
of maple leaves, the quaking of the aspen leaves, and
placidness of the glassy lake. We stopped to chat with our
favorite folks on the mountain: our neighbors, Claudia and Jovial
Jeff , who makes me laugh,* across the way, and the lovebirds
next door, Trudy, who is 81 this coming Wednesday, and Ed, now
Before they downsized into a townhouse, they discovered that
they had 17 ( ! ) spatulas in their expansive kitchen. Bad feng shui. Bad! Bad! Bad!
When Trudy let Jeff know that their driveway was snowed in, he
told her, tongue-in-cheek, of course, "Woman, get out there
and get to work. No excuses."
Energized, DD and I
then took off on our mountain bikes for a vigorous ride up and
down hills and dales, around and around the peninsula. I
love to bike. It's exhilarating. It's literally
breath-taking. It's wonderful! My bike's name is
Purple Passion; and DD's, The Silver Streak. And we
practically fly on them.
In keeping with
Family Day, we decided that we'd eat in. Inspired perhaps by
the sandwiches yesterday, DD announced that
he was going to make us some tuna salad sandwiches for our late
lunch. He had brought up some luscious tomatoes and crisp
cucumbers from a visit to a local farm, and was going to cut them
into thick slices for the sandwiches. But, yikes, there was
not a single round onion in the pantry. Tuna salad
sandwiches without onions, sliced wafer-thin, is like eating fried
chicken without Del Monte catsup* , and DD made a quick run to the
neighborhood grocery store.
Lest you scoff or mock, try it: Del Monte ketchup is in a class by
itself. The only one made with tangy pineapple
vinegar. For years, it was spelled catsup, not ketchup.
My village in
Hawai`i ate fried chicken with catsup. We couldn't all be wrong, now
could we? Like Mikey, try it, you'll love it.
Swinging on our
front porch, we consumed our piled-high tuna sandwiches. O and Freddy were at our feet, happy with the
pieces of sandwich that "just happened" to fall their
way. Bliss for all with simple pleasures.
The late afternoon
was spent in prayer and meditation, as well as rereading my
favorite Pleiadian books on the swing. With the front door
wide open, DD was just a few feet away, playing his guitar.
Pooped from chasing squirrels in the
backyard, O and Freddy hopped onto the window seat behind the
swing to snooze, as happy and content dogs do.
Fear has been
replaced by love.
"Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards,
and which incorporates itself with the grapes, to be changed into wine;
a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us
~ Ben Franklin
DD and I toast the
day with a glass of buttery Navarro
Vineyard's Chardonnay, a rich, full-bodied highly quaffable
We dreamily remember toasting a beautiful sunlit
day and friendship with this wine, on the majestic bluffs of Mendocino,
alongside a charming village reminiscent of New England. We cherish the memory of
this past time with dear friends, once
lovebirds but now no longer together, Chris and Peg. We
return to the present and send them our love, our best
Staying in the
present, we behold each other, breathe in the bouquet, quaff
our favorite white wine, and savor the moment.
"Life is a Gift."
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