Saturday January 10, 1998

For most of the four hours down the coast was clear or only partly cloudy. To distract my dizzy mind from the curves, I wrote haiku beginning in Sea Ranch:

gray white twisting
along winter full creeks
the leafless alders

Along Jenner Grade, where the road becomes a real challenge to the Dramamine, the poems came faster.

Road Narrows sign
in the last rain half of it
falls into the sea

Road crews were already out working on it. While waiting for the stop light to change at a construction site:

digging out
a new roadway, one worker
picks his teeth

Coming down the switch backs and able to see into the Russian River area:

mists rising from mountain folds
or angels?

In Jenner, at the state park facility where we so often meet hometown folks on the same path:

pee stop
river to river
it begins to rain

In Guerneville, I wondered if this drizzle was the beginning of the next flood for this area; as was being predicted by the weather reports. The brown swirling river was already higher than normal.

get-away cabin
ready to fall into
the flooding river

As we came around the curve to the Korbel Winery, the sun came out suddenly shining on the flooded vineyard. We both said at once, "We should stop and take a picture." but we didn't take the time. We weren't tourists enough, yet.

in spring flood waters
reflections of vines
next summer's grapes

Monte Rio, which always seems hesitant to give up any bit of its past, continued the feeling.

still bearing leaves
the wild rose decorated
with Christmas lights

Yet the flowers that really thrilled me I found in Santa Rosa.

in the mall
winter white sales
plum blossoms

Perhaps if the plum blossoms were already out here, it was a sign that in Japan I would at least get to see a few as substitute for the cherry blossoms not due out until April.

As the day darkened, the rains came down harder. With the last of daylight, we got lost in San Bruno looking for the hotel on the Airport Boulevard. Around and around we went -- each time making the same mistake and ending up on the same wrong road. Three times I went into gas stations for directions. In the first one was a Chinese couple. I came face to face with my first inability to understand and make myself understood in an Asian language. In Millbrae, a tall, young Negro boy gave me very exact directions. At least we got back into San Bruno with them, but we could not find the right place to make the turn to the access road. Finally, in the third gas station was, what seemed to be a family of Italian youths. Their jokes and good humor calmed some of my panic that I was too dumb to find my way out of America, let alone into Japan.

Their instructions did the trick and soon we were in the Holiday Inn and feeling as if were truly on our way. Unwilling to sit in a strange restaurant for dinner, we had picnic from home (from cleaning out the refrigerator) while we treated ourselves to watching the Super Bowl on TV - a re-run of the Super Bowl of 1978.

I comforted my anxieties by remembering an incident from the morning. As I had gone through the house one last time, saying good-bye to the places where my spirits had hollowed out spaces, willing them to pull me safety back again, I had paused by the bookcase. On an impulse, I reached into the medicine bag holding my tarot cards and pulled just one. The Universe. So the Universe was with me and I was doing the right thing in making this trip. No matter how uneasy I would feel, I should know that I was doing the "right" thing. I was amazed how soundly I slept.

Proceed to Chapter Two .