Thanksgiving 2004

Jan suggested a hike this Sunday morning, since she no longer has to go to church with her mother. We agreed to catch the sunrise on San Luis Mountain. There were already three cars in the parking lot when we got there and started up the hill in the chill wind. The sun crested the southern horizon as we passed below a great boulder surmounted by two large coast live oaks and slowly lit up the red, yellow and purple rock. Behind it you could see the sky turn from gray to lapis lazuli blue. As we descended from the summit after enjoying the view of the city surrounded by agricultural fields mountains and ocean and drinking coffee from a thermos, I said that the older I get the more I think its unlikely we’ll move away from this place. On the way home we stopped at Home Depot for a new pickaxe. The one I’d been using broke off at the tip after hitting one too many rocks.

Now I sit at the top of the hill in the backyard on the “60th Anniversary Bench” we gave to my parents, inscribed with the old proverb about love. Its the only spot at our place that gets sun this time of year and the warm rays feel good in the chilly air. The light at midday is better than early morning or late afternoon at this time of year–both low and strong, intensifying shadows and highlights.

I’m reminded of November on our old homestead in British Columbia in the ’70’s. Only on the bank above the driveway, high on the south facing slope could you get out of the shadow of the cliffs and tall trees surrounding the pasture. Here the goats and the cat would lounge all afternoon whenever it was clear. I’ve been scanning and restoring old pictures of that time from mouldering photo albums.

Its been a long Thanksgiving holiday whose approaching end is marked by the sound of students’ cars returning to campus. On Tuesday morning Ian and I packed provisions and headed for Montana de Oro. We found a site near the trailhead at the end of the campground. As we were setting up the tent, a midsized healthy looking coyote sauntered by and stood scratching itself and watching us as we watched it, for about ten minutes. I was too enthralled to take out my camera. At first I thought it was a dog belonging to another camper.

At the Spooner’s Cove beach we climbed a tilted sandstone outcrop and came to spot on top where the waves roared through a crack below us. I foraged eucalyptus branches for firewood and as we returned to the camp, Jan drove up after seeing her afternoon clients. The three of us took a hike up the Islay creek trail and watched fingers of fog creeping down into the canyon over Reservoir Flats. On the way back to camp Jan told the story of the three little pigs in great detail to keep Ian from thinking about being tired and we watched the sun dip into the marine layer as we came back to the camp. As the sky turned flourescent pink, then purple then black, we grilled dinner with only three candle stubs sheltered by the apple juice container for light.

Inside the little backpacking tent we hung a small flashlight from the ceiling and played Chutes and Ladders till Ian threw the spinner away in rage and then immediately fell asleep. When Jan went out to pee in the middle of the night she heard cellophane crackling and in the morning we discovered that the cookies we had forgotten to put away were missing.

Claire drove up in a big truck in time to join us for breakfast and more games. After Jan left to go back to work, Ian Claire and I struck camp and hiked the bluff trail along the ocean, sighting quail, sparrows, herons, cormorants, herons, and male and female brown pelicans which Ian identified with the bird book. We also spotted an otter relaxing in the surf between protruding outcrops.

The sun hid in the mist and then appeared briefly intensifying colors and shapes. We stayed for two hours in Corallitos Cove, throwing rocks, chasing waves, poking anemones, investigating crabs and observing the comings and goings of the pelicans. In the late afternoon we drove to Los Osos for ice cream cones.

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