October 1995. My first time driving from the Bay up the 128 through Anderson Valley to the little misty enclave of Mendocino. It was Samhain, a night of anarchistic pagan celebration planned with an assortment of witches/ musicians/rule-breakers, some of them old friends, many new. My life was in disarray, my heart full of loss and confusion. In a one room cabin on Little Lake Street, I let the medicine move through me. The sorrow of the season and comfort of those present inviting the tears to come. I forged deep new ties that night and initiated the process of severing old ones. A nascent moment in an unfolding of events that would change my life.
Awake at 4:30 AM and on the road by 5, giddy with anticipation as I sped down the dark deserted roads running from Potter Valley to the mouth of Big River. A place where the river and the sea meet, the saltiness mixing with the fresh, now completing its journey from far inland. Always bone-chilling, but with 4mm of neoprene covering 90% of my body, it was almost refreshing. Water so clear, you’d think you were a million miles from civilization. Often I’m the only one out. Swells rolling in from the north pacific, concluding their unimpeded migration from distant storms, offering themselves in a never ending succession.
Countless nights spent visiting the cluttered and moldy house in Albion. Remembering the inaugural night of my escaping the Bay Area and the furious ex-girlfriend I left behind. Walks through the fog and amongst redwoods, thick with a dampness that never really lifts irrespective of the season. The guest bed in the attic room where posters from someone else’s childhood still hung. Morning coffee tête-à-têtes often spinning deep and metaphysical.
Bonfires on Big River beach. Christmases and birthdays and Thanksgivings in family homes warmed by wood stoves and steamy, cluttered kitchens bustling with food preparations. The kiss of a beautiful young woman in the parking lot of the Caspar Inn, bringing to an end my year of recovering from deep heartbreak. Being the only visible person on the entire length of 10 Mile Beach on a cold January morning. Reigniting a romance in the attic of a converted barn outside of Little River. Copious hazy mornings and blustery afternoons feeling at home in that ocean, in that place, surrounded by the black cliffs and historic houses perched on hills high above.
Now it’s the place I escape to when the heat and smoke of the inland valleys are too much and the desire for salty air and familiar haunts entice me to drive that potholed, snaking road west. Most of the family is gone now, living other places. Sometimes I sequester myself to work in my little metal box on the street across from Dick’s Place, taking walks around town or down to the ocean to give my body and brain a break. Sometimes I drive up to Westport and squint my eyes, imagining myself living in a time long ago. And sometimes I take a slow drive up and down Highway 1 and let the memories trickle back in a never ending succession.