Certain things go hand in hand when I reflect on my California memories. Two of the most prominent are driftwood and fog. Growing up in San Diego, the fog was as normal as breathing. There is a mysterious whisper in the air and sounds travel great distances. Conversations can be overheard leaving no sense of direction as to where the hushed murmurs are arising from. The warning sound of a foghorn moans mournfully, casting out a repeated signal on the fog washed beaches of my memories.
Countless times, I walked on fog-embraced beaches, fog so thick, it was gray and sunless at noon. My only company was a few other fog walking devotees, driftwood, seashells, and the remains of giant kelp. Driftwood was something I viewed as in endless supply. Picking it up, feeling it, smelling it, returning it, was all part of the beach walking ritual. Back then it never occurred to me to keep it. Once I moved away from the ocean, I became acquainted with fog's valley cousin but unlike the seashore, the valley fog had no driftwood. I began to discover what I had missed. And then, on another foggy day, next to a different body of water, I rediscovered driftwood.
Like the Pacific Ocean, the Mississippi River has a lively and unpredictable life. Good weather shows running currents and occasional floating debris. Like the ocean, much of the debris is hidden underwater. But, unlike the ocean, its currents run very visibly like rivers within rivers, breaking up a multitude of fragments, great and small, that have broken from some birthing place now unrecognizable. River driftwood had washed up at my feet, on a completely unexpected shore.
The end of Ward Ave. has a boat ramp and I'll occasionally walk to the bottom of the ramp and dip in the tips of my shoes. In the heat of summer, sandals dipped into the river make for a much more satisfying experience but winter's cold discourages such indulges on bare feet. What it doesn't have in short supply - at least for the moment - is driftwood that has been thrown up high upon the boat ramp's rocky embankment.
Like softly finished gems, thrown upon the river shore, trunks, limbs, branches, and fragments just lay there waiting for me. I felt ambushed. The Pirate, meanwhile, waited for me in the car with no idea of what awaited him. As I happily arrived with four bits and pieces, he opened the back door of the car, smiled at me knowingly, and took them off to their new home.
I'm already mentally weaving a wall hanging for one and seascapes of tiny houses, boats, and cliffs are evolving for the others. And, the pirate has already acknowledged that come spring he will be there holding a box while I load up with winter's bounty that is next delivered to my riverfront door.
Taken outside of Wellington Station in Turlock, CA
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