The minute January 6th is over, and I take down the Christmas trees, I am done with winter. January’s a tough month. Possibly my least favorite month of the year. The older I get, the more I hate the cold. The older I get, the more I hate the rain, the grey skies, the fact that summer is a long, long way off.
It’s in January, usually on our morning walk to our favorite coffee shop, that my husband and I resurrect our daydream of moving to warmer places. You know, places like Miami or Scottsdale or San Diego. Places where the eternal mists of the Pacific Northwest winters are absent. Where the sun caresses the skin and warms the pavement beneath our feet. Where the flowers are the deepest magenta and the air smells like lemons.
And then we get inside the warmth of the coffee shop, and we think: we can’t leave this place. We laugh at our complains. To live in constant sunshine and the whir of air conditioners? That’s not for us! Not yet, anyway. We can wait until we retire. So we sip our cappuccinos and nibble on our croissants, say hello to the regulars who stop by our table, and admit to each other that we have a pretty good life here. A loving family, great friends, wonderful neighbors, jobs that we enjoy, a creative community we’re part of. Quite a lot to give up for a bit of blue sky.
I guess we’ll stay put for the moment. Have more coffee, more croissants, read another book, start another painting, work a little harder. Because life is beautiful. Right here. Right now. Now if January would just hurry up and be done with.
A quarter of a mile up the road from our house, the woods begin. On a hot summer day, we grab our water bottles and sweaters, and head out. Within five minutes we’ve left the city behind, with its noise, its traffic, its suffocating heat. We follow the dirt path that meanders through the firs, the jasmine, and the wild blackberry bushes, the only sound that of the gurgling stream, and birds calling to each other.
The deeper in we go, the cooler it gets. We don our sweaters and button them up. The kids race up ahead, my son gathering salmonberries, naming ferns and mushrooms, my daughter picking wildflowers she presents to me, or down to the stream looking for salamanders. They jump from one rock to another, wanting to be the first to get to the opposite shore. I watch, my heart in my throat, and caution them. My husband laughs and tells me to relax. He goes to join them, a protective hand hovering above the little one.
Finally we arrive at remains of the old Stone House. This is our turning point. Husband and I sit on a log, quench our thirst, and the little ones prepare to put on a show. The old stone structure is their castle, the forest their kingdom, their dad and I, their subjects.
On our way back down, I offer up a little prayer of gratitude. For my beautiful family, for the magic of childhood, for the trees, and the flowers, and the sun, and the air we breath. I am amazed and moved to tears. It is in the midst of nature that I feel closest to God.
After an early, misty morning trek to our favorite boulangerie for croissants and coffee, we decided that the best way to spend the weekend was at the beach. The husband and I have very opposing views of what constitutes a perfect day at the beach. I tend to be drawn to gloomy, stormy weather, relentless crashing waves and pelting rain. After an invigorating, brisk walk on the water’s edge, I look forward to the coziness of the beach cabin, with its crackling fire, mugs of hot coffee and cocoa, countless board games, and hours of staring at the incessant waves from the comfort of my wing chair, open book ignored in my lap.
The husband, on the other hand, wants scorching days where he can spread out his blanket and doze off to the lively chatter of kids playing in the sand and seagulls calling to each other. Later on, he wants to fly the kite with the kids, go in search of dripping ice cream cones, and have a game of beach volleyball, after which he’ll take another long nap.
But hey, we know a happy marriage takes a lot of work and compromise, so that’s exactly what we do.
The only clouds to be seen were far on the horizon, but the wind was picking up. We laid our blanket and bags down and the husband, sweatshirt zipped up, hood on, and went for a nap. I opened my book and started daydreaming. In another couple of weeks school would start, and shortly thereafter the preparations for the holidays.
And then the rain came in errant little plops at first, and then in great big ones. The mountain whose road we had meandered on, had donned a cap of foggy gray descending in waves, it seemed, down the side. We gathered our things and ran to our little cozy cabin where we quickly built a fire. Snuggled in our blankets, hot drinks in hand, we all agreed that we were in the perfect place to watch a summer storm push through.
Years ago, a friend and I took a few sunny summer days to explore the Pacific Northwest coast. Our main goal was to stay off the beaten path and experience life at a slower pace. Antique shops, flea markets, and art galleries were our destination, as were berry farms, deserted beaches, dusty book shops and coffee houses. We had reserved a couple of nights at bed and breakfast places along the way, provisioned ourselves with a picnic basket overflowing with Belgian chocolates, crusty bread, and the best cheeses we could afford, and set out.
She was to be married that summer, and soon after to move away. I suppose, in a way, we were gifting each other a last memory of our girlhood. Ours was a friendship that had carried us from childhood, through the turbulent, self-conscious adolescence, and into our twenties.
The views were stunning. Rolling pastoral beauty giving way to dense emerald forests. We followed a river that shined like mica and came into a village right out of a nautical painting. The sun was setting, all rose and apricot colored over the bay. We parked our car and strolled the heart of the main street in search of a coffee house. With steaming drinks and chunks of cheese filled bread, we made our way to the beach, content to sit on the sand and soak up the beauty before us.
As darkness was approaching, we didn’t linger too long. Somewhere along those dusty roads, the hostess of a white Victorian house was awaiting our arrival, probably eager to lock up and go to bed. Our bedroom, at the top of three flights of stairs, was under the eaves and decorated with a large-scale lilac print wallpaper right out of a Victoria magazine. The brass, queen-sized bed was piled up with fluffy pillows, and in the bathroom a claw-foot tub occupied most of the space. We loved it.
A misty morning arrived too soon. We took our time over breakfast in the ornate dining room, both decided that the food could be better, yet stuffed ourselves nonetheless, and set off for a day of treasure hunting. It seemed that time stood still. The clouds and morning drizzle cleared away, and our minds emptied of everything but the joy of each other’s company.
That night’s bed and breakfast was a far cry from the first. We took one look at it and turned our car around. It was spooky! Our overactive imaginations had us roaming the dark roads in search of acceptable lodging. Finally, after it seemed as though we drove for hours, we found a newly built hotel, devoid of character, as expected, but with views of the silver ocean lapping at the rocks below.
Before we headed home the following afternoon, we stopped into a local bookshop and sealed our three days together by each purchasing a copy of Jane Eyre. It was a favorite book to both of us, and a talisman to remember our friendship and our last adventure before matrimony.