Monday, May 23, 2016

Pine Cone Rock

It is not the most dramatic of peaks for our sixtieth SoCal hike. Mt. Hillyer near Chilao Flats summits rather aimlessly, leaving both David and I with furrowed brows, wondering, is this it? Regardless, it is a lovely day with sunshine and cool breezes singing through the tall pines. 

David and I crawl up what we've decided is the highest peak. On our way, we spot the most massive pine cone that has fallen down between the boulders, a pine cone nearly as big as my head (no joke). I say I want it, so of course, David shimmies down and plucks it out from the crack, careful not to break its scales. He climbs back up, treasure in hand, but the pine cone is seeping syrupy sap so instead, we perch it at the highest point (a cairn to abandoned desires) and leave it standing sturdy against the growing winds. We scramble down and sit, sheltered behind a nearby rock, and eat the snacks we packed, only then hearing the sounds of hikers, the first we've encountered all day, approaching from afar.

"PINE CONE ROCK!" a young voice rips through the rabble. "I want to go to Pine Cone Rock!" We sit silent and unseen as a batch of unruly Boy Scouts race up the rocks. We smile at each other realizing they are talking about our pine cone rock.  "DON'T TOUCH IT!" the tallest boy demands. "Leave it as you found it!" he states authoritatively. I know this phrase, I know respect for the wilderness, I have been taught well. I imagine my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a curly haired boy, wandering through woods, naming birds and plants and trees, steadfast in the ethics of the outdoors, leaning in close to inspect, but never touching. I feel equal twinges of pride and guilt knowing my David (proud Eagle Scout) as a shaved-headed full grown man, will scuttle down stone, to get me the biggest of pine cones.     

"It could be a marker," another boy suggests. "But HOW did it GET here?" David and I stare at each other, eyes wide, trying not to laugh. "A marker for what?" The questions hang for a second in silence, then the first boy explodes, "BUT I WANT IT." 

He wants it, like I want it. I wish I could sneak up there and stuff it in his backpack without his troupe seeing. I want him to have it, to get home and find it (hopefully with the sap fully dried), and stash it under his bed in a shoe box he keeps for secret things (although it's probably too big for a regular shoe box). Or maybe he'll take a chance and boldly display it next to his 4H trophies on the highest shelf in his bedroom. 

"But you can't have it! Nature doesn't belong to just you!" 

Oh. Bless. 

I don't want to know what happens next. I don't want to know if they keep fighting or if it accidentally gets tipped off the highest rock and tumbles down down down. I don't want to hear gasps or whose fault it is or reprimands from their leaders for being too close to the edge. So David and I slip away, leaving the Boy Scouts what-if-ing, and travel fast down the mountain, passing a thousand pine cones on our way. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

this far

...we were lying in savasana and our yoga teacher told us that she was driving to the studio and got totally overwhelmed. she said, "tomorrow is my birthday, and i just felt totally overwhelmed." i expected her next words to be some realization about aging, about how quickly life passes, how she's running out of time or feeling her mortality. but instead, she continued by saying, "i've made it this far. so much has happened, and i'm here, i've made it this far." such a needed reminder to acknowledge all of the journey, the times we've soared and the times we've barely survived. she went on and affirmed not just the distance covered, but the immeasurable road ahead. what will we do with our next breath? in a year that has brought another death to my immediate family, shrinking us from seven to four in just five years, i remind myself that i am alive, so much has happened, and i'm here, i've made it this far. here's to the journey, to surviving and celebrating, and to those lovely spirits who guide us along the way...

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Another Question...

I left my earphones in my other purse and the two women next to me are talking so loudly that I'm not sure if I'm more frustrated with myself or them. I choose them. They chatter on about the villa she stayed in, about the water, the weather, the pastries. One woman is perched eagerly over the other woman's phone. "That's a tall giraffe." "Yeah, we saw a lot of that, it was awesome." They are flipping through photos on the twiggy woman's phone. She wears suede boots up to the knee, a gold zipper from the heel all the way up the back of her calf, like a seam. "We ate at Africa House, it was awesome." She holds her phone in her left hand while running her finger across the phone screen. I see her ring finger wrapped in diamonds, a band of sparkling white, each stone nearly the size of my singular solitaire. Faster and faster she flips through the photos. The perched woman wears black leggings under a black skirt of the same material and can't stop coughing, asking clarifying questions, and interjecting opinions that the other woman swats away with minimal detail and maximum disinterest. "Why are you going so quick? I want to see!" she exclaims, leaning in closer. "It's not all exciting," her friend says as she tries to get through the slideshow. "Everything is exciting," she replies between coughs.

They both wear wigs, the nice ones that you can't tell are fake at first glance, the ones I only notice in this part of town where the men wear black suits and cover their heads and are seen walking to synagogue on Friday nights. "If you said, let's go on safari I'd say let's wait a few years, but now I'd totally go again." They talk about the friend who owns the villa. "Wife?" "She converted." "Huh." "Whatever." She brushes it off and moves on to talk about parachuting and the view from the balcony and more animals and breakfast and the kids the kids the kids. They talk so fast it sounds like someone is playing a tape at a jacked up speed. I keep waiting for the tape to break or for one of them to pause. It makes my chest feel tight and I have to remind myself to breathe. 

"So that was my trip. How was Pesach?" I am pleased that I know Pesach means the same thing as Passover and it makes me smile to think of my first Seder dinner just a couple of weeks ago. "Not as exciting as yours," the cougher replies and laughs and instead of answering says, "Two more questions..." It feels like she's stalling. She asks, and off they go again, same routine, same interjections, same lightening speed. More about the weather, the food, the massages, the villa, the friends who own the villa, how her husband loves to be the center of attention, how you could go if you were single but only if you're a super social person. 

Finally the coughing woman takes her turn. She has the stage and slides back into her seat. She slouches to be eye to eye with her suede-booted friend, who is resting the lid of her Starbucks cup against her suddenly still lips. But as it turns out, she doesn't have much to say. She throws out a few details about Seder and the kids the kids the kids and speaks so quickly her hands can hardly keep up. There is an apology in her body, like she doesn't deserves to be center stage. I find I can't even follow her train of thought. The bigger she becomes the more she fades, until she is invisible, and all I see is her tossing the conversation back to the other woman, another question about the kids the kids the kids.