Like opening the fridge door. Like popping a balloon full of amber confetti. Like being immersed in a painting by Claude Monet. Like being in a movie about a woman whose heart is finally open to a life she once only dreamed of.
I will do my very best to try to explain where I am, why I’m here and what is happening to me. It starts a long, long time ago, when I was a little girl playing in the backyard at Spreckles Lane. She was an imaginative little girl who could turn a magnolia tree leaf into Robinson Crusoe’s ship, a piece of abandoned tissue paper and string into a makeshift dress for her pen-freckled, frizzy-haired peewee doll. Croaking toads were characters in her make-believe world, as was her Calico cat, Penny, and lighthouse fountain her father made out of PV stone. She was bronze and pigtailed, high foreheaded, chubby-bellied, and longed to be everyone’s amigo. She was fun and danceable, liked to draw, read and tell stories until she got to an age where she could write her own. Her adoring father was her sidekick and enchanted his little girl with bedtime stories threaded with bits and pieces of her imagination. He was always like that, incorporating his daughter’s story into his, giving her validation and a golden key that she would cherish for the rest of her days.
That brings me to this moment, more than six decades later, more than a dozen years after her beloved dad died, sitting on a leaf-carpeted porch next to a leaping creek, doing what she’s always done–write. Only this time, it’s different.
This time, the little girl has a car and can drive and cook food and go out to eat, if she feels like it, and stay up really late binging on movies (when she has reception) and read an entire book in day, or drink a wee glass of wine in the afternoon or take a nap (which she has yet to do) or camp 10 days straight in the beautiful Sierras or leave when a Fall storm threatens rain and snow on the weekend or reserve not one, but THREE nights at the cutest little cabin resort off the 395 outside of Bridgeport, CA. Here, at the Virginia Creek Settlement https://virginiacreeksettlement.net/, she has a porch and a hot shower and a comfy bed and internet reception and her own food to cook–a big pot of veggie chili for the chilly nights–and can order from an on-site diner the best damn cheese pizza in the Sierras and hang out near the firepit and eat so’mores, just she and her devoted pal, Monet, the spotted blue healer. Here, she can imagine The Next Chapter without judgment or interference from well-indended folk. Here, she can see herself doing everything she loves—reading, writing, creating art, listening to music, absorbing the stillness and variety of Nature. Here, there are no expectations other than to let Nature do her job.
This grownup woman/girl is so happy, so content, so in-the-moment, so grateful in a way she hasn’t felt for years. Giddy to feel the translucent leaves shower her in unexpected wind spurts as if she is Ginger Rogers in “Singing in the Rain”. Giddy to imagine Paiute warriors standing above the painted granite cliff surveying the land and strangers like me, wondering, “Are you here to appreciate or raid?”
I am here, honorable people, to absorb, reflect and to remember the changing of the seasons, the contentment in Miguel’s face as we share a moment of gratitude along the creekside, on this fine transitional day, before he bids adieu, getting back to his handyman work, and I get back to noticing.
Yesterday, it was emotional leaving the Twin Lakes Campground, saying goodbye to Terrie the camp host, and my beautiful campsite. To land here, however, is an equal blessing. An indoor respite where I can hang my hat—literally—for a few days, settling in, before it’s time to move on. I simply don’t have enough words to express how perfect this retreat is for me, how many thoughtful accommodations Jimmy and Brinn, the proprietors of Virginia Creek Settlement, have thought of for us guests. Rustic, clean and comfortable.
If the only prayer you say at the end of the day is thank you, that is enough. Thank you means you listened, you noticed all of the tiny miracles that make up a day—your day. The Gift.