Back In California


Ben Lomond Springtime
Originally uploaded by Patrushka.

“This world…and then the next,” my Kansas-bred grandmother used to say. I was never really sure what she meant but she said it after she had experienced some small sorrow or exasperation. I think Nana believed this world was a vale of tears to be gotten though by grit, determination, and holding on for dear life. And who knew what the next world would be like? But when she used that expression, she didn’t sound too hopeful. In later years, my mother took up the refrain and now I hear it ringing in my own ears.

Where is joy this overcast morning in the backyard of my brother’s house in Ben Lomond, CA? The acorn woodpeckers, a whole gang of them, are knocking and banging overhead somewhere, making their ‘kacka-kacka’ calls to each other. A grey squirrel and a stellar jay are facing off over first rights to the birdbath. Looks like the beginning of another nice California day. So why do I feel grey?

We flew down from Spokane on Saturday. My oldest pal, Way Out Willy, and his wife Kay picked us up at the San Jose Airport. We went out to dinner and laughed about nothing in particular, as we always have. “Joshed” as they used to say. I’ve known Will since we were Baby Beatniks together nearly fifty years ago. He’s become as strange and crotchety as I have but I’m okay with his crotchets — you don’t get that many best friends in a lifetime and God gave me one. Someday I’ll write about him, but I’ll have to disguise his name so he won’t get mad. Maybe I’ll call him Way Out Billy.

Will was out on his adventures for a long time but he made harbor at last. Now he has a sweet wife, and a cool little house in the manzanita thickets and an old dog Miles who remembers Patruska and I when we come to visit and wags his tail and grins.

How I long for a safe harbor. A place I can put my stuff. A place where I can get up in the morning and know where everything is, know that today will be a lot like yesterday, pondering and writing and going down to the coffee house to see what the other talking pigs are doing.

This is just a phase, of course. Too much experience, too much chaos. Too many days just trying to get through to the end – like the homeless guys experience every day of their lives. No wonder so many take drugs! When we do get a home again, and peace, and a fire to sit by on winter evenings, I know I’ll get restless and start planning a new adventure. Perhaps a voyage to Kerguelen Island, the far away land. But for now, this grey California morning, my sciatica hurts and I just want to go home. If I had one.

Sorry. I don’t usually get this personal. Next I’ll be telling you about Sniffy’s birthday party. With luck, I won’t make a habit of it, but you never know. I may be going into a new phase.

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