Look at that. There are no words for that kind of natural beauty.
My trip back to The Cruz was just about everything I’d hoped it would be- restful and sunny and filled with good friends. I was caught off guard by all the memories though. They’d strike me in the most unlikely places- just driving down a once-familiar street and seeing a restaurant that I ate at and remembering a conversation I’d had with an old boyfriend. Or seeing a particular block of the downtown strip and remembering what it felt like the first time a special someone put his arm around me. Or all the evenings spent with friends at impromptu gatherings at my old house, the one with the wisteria sagging around the front gate, and how Angelou would keep watch over the yard. I could just picture her running free at the beach with the waves curling around her legs even though in actuality we scattered her ashes on Friday.
I saw myself in stages and felt a tenderness I’ve never identified before towards that girl I used to be. I remembered a lot of little moments that had a big impact. It was sometimes surreal and disconcerting but it helped me gain some perspective perhaps I was unaware that I needed.
I’ll tell it to you like this:
On the morning of my birthday I awoke in my perfect little cottage in my very comfortable bed to the sound of the fog horns blowing in the distance. I threw on some clothes and made my way on foot to West Cliff. The marine layer had tucked itself in tight to the sea but I could hear the waves crashing on the rocks.
I came upon my thinking tree and found it changed. Noisy birds swooping in and out of the tree branches overhead had left their mark all over the tattered wood bench and someone had taken to carving it up. But I sat there anyhow for old time’s sake and let the memories flood me. I thought about all the walks I’d taken along the winding coastal footpath sharing stories with confidantes or alone trying to outpace my frenetic mind – and realized that in the time I’ve been away I’d changed. Santa Cruz has stayed mostly the same but it was ME who was different.
And in that moment I felt it for the first time: Pride. I was proud of myself and the person I’ve become.
Later that day my friends swarmed my little cottage, filling it with their laughter and chatter. We gathered in the backyard with beers in the sunlight, swapping stories and catching up. It’s easy with them because we know each other on a deeper level so a year can pass without seeing them in person and still, our connection is strong. It also helps that they are each hilarious and brilliant in their own unique way. I looked around and felt . . . full. All these wonderful people had come to see me. Me! And when it came time, after cake, to do the traditional Bird LoveFest, they opened up their hearts even more to share why they love me. I know some of them are internally freaking out about being put on the spot to speak in public but they power through it. They said things to me that, days later, are still playing on in my head. Trust me, if you’re going to have a broken record in your head? Play one like that. It’s amazingly good for the ego.
When I left Seattle last Thursday I was incredibly wound up and holding tight to angry, anxious feelings. Five days later I returned here to this city I now lovingly call home, with a steady sense of calmness and trust. I know I’ve got more work to do but I also now realize how far I’ve come. It’s like the quote that’s carved into my thinking tree bench,
“After a long journey, peace.”
Hello thirty-six, it’s nice to meet you.