Sooner or later I knew it would come, and here it is. Today’s been spent experiencing the unpleasant side of being houseless, confined to a very small living space, and committed to being in Ukiah a majority of my time. I'm growing weary of looking for places to park for the night that won't leave me feeling exposed or scrutinized. Also, I’m finding that even though I’ve chosen a life of freedom and mobility, when I'm in Ukiah I still have a strong pull to end up at a place at the end of the day. I don’t need it to be a house, but I feel like I need a place to be that I don’t have to think about, worry about, plan for… just a place where I can park and not be bothered, not bother anybody, and go about my end-of-the-day business. I’m going to invest some energy into procuring such a place. We’ll see what comes my way.
I need to get the work on the inside of the van done pronto. Part of my frustration is the inefficiency and disorganization inside the van, and how long it takes me to do the things I need to do. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do that, but I need to do SOMEthing to keep the ball rolling.
Part of the ‘van life’ fantasy was to travel, and I knew my work commitments would require my presence in Ukiah enough to restrict any extended sort of travel for the time being. But spending time in Ukiah when I’m NOT actually working is getting less and less fun. I’ve felt ambivalent about being in Ukiah for the last couple of years anyway, but now I’m aimlessly driving around, trying to find a place to be or something to do. Again, maybe things will get better when the van is more finished out, but for the time being it’s making me feel edgy.
Yesterday I was awakened at 6 AM by the van rocking back and forth violently and rain pelting the back of the van at high velocity. I jumped out of bed and turned my headlights on to see what was happening, and it appeared as though a small tornado was passing close by. I wondered what to do… should I stay put or should I try to drive somewhere more sheltered? Considering I was parked on a bluff 100 or so feet above the ocean, I knew I was particularly exposed to the wind and didn’t want it to blow me off the cliff. I opted to hop in the driver’s seat and slowly creep back down the highway to shelter in Westport, where I managed to park in front of a lovely, dilapidated old abandoned house on the main thoroughfare and go about my breakfast and coffee business until the squall passed.
The weather cleared for the rest of the morning as I made my way south, back through Fort Bragg and into Mendocino, with a short stop at Jughandle Beach to brew another cup of coffee and take a little walk. Headed down the 1 to Navarro Beach, where I walked on the sand, made a few photos and then walked up the beach to watch a lone surfer work diligently to catch the few clean waves that came through the cove. Mendo Coast surfers are a special breed, possessing much of the old California pioneer spirit that drove their forbearers to endure special hardships and unique challenges in their pursuit of their ventures. As someone who’s spent my fair share of time in the water up here, whatever hardships present themselves are worth it, because of the beauty and solitude and specialness of the place.
I walked back up the road to the old Navarro-By-The-Sea Inn and the only other still-standing structure remaining from a time long gone when this was an active resort. Before that, it was a sawmill and lumber harbor, originally established in the 1850’s. The Inn has been restored and made a national landmark and historical place, spared a certain fate of being swallowed up by the marshland and surrounding forest. The other building – a large house – isn’t marked or labeled in any way, so I’m not sure what its story is.
As I stood there staring this elegant relic of a time long gone, I felt a longing to know the stories of these old buildings, especially the ones that have been neglected or ignored for years and fallen into disrepair. Who lived/worked there? For how long? What were their lives like? What countless conversations, arguments, intimacies, injuries and misfortunes have those walls been witness to? Sometimes when I find myself inside a place like that I’ll stand quiet and still, straining to hear some whisper of a voice from the past.
On I drove… over the Navarro River and further south through Elk and Irish Beach and Manchester, cutting west onto the curves and near solitude of Mountain View Road. I stopped for a quick leg-stretch at Faulkner Park, a small redwood grove just outside Boonville that seems to have regular usage during warmer months but these days looks and feels abandoned, which was just fine by me.
Back in Ukiah again, it was errands and work and unsettledness and uncomfortable pondering until bedtime.