weekend ruminations, part one: summer

June 23, 2009

over the weekend, honey and i went up to the russian river. we needed a little break from our usual lives, and a road trip seemed like a good plan. she wanted to sunbathe and play in the water; i’m pretty much down for anything that involves getting out of town for a day or two. so we drove up saturday night and stayed in santa rosa, where we visited a local watering hole and watched part of a weekly pool tournament. 

but while fun, the bar was not the point of the trip. sunday we headed out through Guerneville, through places like Monte Rio (where i saw the pink elephant but didn’t get to visit) and Forestville, places that are so small they don’t even bother with city limits signs, which makes it kind of hard to figure out where, in fact, you are. we finally got to a place where we could go down to the river. which was very rocky. my feet still hurt.

but honestly, the best part was the trip back from the river. disregarding certain modern things like the car we were in, the ipod we were listening to, the cell phones we carried, rural sonoma county presents an almost timeless sense of summer. it was the solstice and a perfect day, warm but not hot, breezy but not windy (at least not until late in the day). the sunlight had achieved that absolutely perfect summer quality, slanting down through the redwoods and bathing everything in warm, lazy, golden light. we drove down the narrow two-lane roads past frame houses and redwood cabins. i don’t think i saw a single house that looked like a modern suburban home. there were no housing developments. we stopped in Guerneville to roam around and ended up in the grocery store (a thoroughly modern Safeway), where everyone was slumping about in swim suits and shorts and flip flops and sunburns.

now, maybe it was the combination of the sun and the fresh air and just a little bit of beer, but i felt like i was floating through one of those perfect summer days that transcends time. i felt like i could have just as easily been driving down the road in 1989 or 1969 as 2009. it felt no different than summer days spent camping with my family fifteen years ago; no different than summer days spent running about my grandparents’ orchard with my brothers nearly twenty years ago. in fact, as we were lying on the (rocky) beach taking in the sun, i half expected to hear my grandmother yelling at me about reapplying sunscreen. 

what strikes me is that summer is the only season i ever have these feelings about. i love spring and fall but i don’t have these types of associations with them (spring makes me think of how happy i am when it stops raining; fall makes me think of how happy i am when sweater weather returns and how much i love the smell of the first rain storm). and where summer always seems the same, winter seems to grow older and sadder every year. summer is warm and lazy and bright, a time for road trips and barbeques and friends. winter is cold and dark and frequently lonely, particularly as christmas becomes less of an event and serves mostly to remind me of how distant my family is, physically and emotionally. 

it’s good to get out of town occasionally, to see different things, to have a fresh perspective on home when you get back. and it’s nice to be out of cell phone reception, nice to wander along the back roads and doze lazily in the sunlight and to remember other such pleasant days. and it’s nice to have those times to reflect on in the cold gray days of january, when all seems dreary and cold.


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