I thought I should go away somewhere.
I thought I should stay here but do something amazing.
I thought I should have an album of gorgeous pictures to show for it.
And then I had this other thought that just said, 'be still and be you, and meditate in the joy of that alone. And also: drive.'
Last night it occurred to me, where I needed to go. I'd written recently about a drive I took to Lick Observatory at the top of Mount Hamilton, in the middle of my pregnancy, on one of the saddest days I can remember. I thought that, in keeping with a couple of the do-over days that were part of this project, it would be nice to take that same trip in reverse. Last time I'd driven down the back way and through Livermore, from where I hopped on 580, 680, 280, home. Now that I live in the East Bay, I thought I could start in Livermore and come down into San Jose, maybe visit my friend Nicole before heading home. I thought I could just enjoy the drive and think about all the healing of the past year, all the places I'd traveled from and to--literally and figuratively, emotionally--and experience a few hours of quiet, me and Monkey on the road.
The day started out according to that plan. I packed a picnic lunch for Kalil and myself, figuring we'd grab a bench outside the observatory when we got there and hoping we'd be warm enough to enjoy the food and the meal. We had jackets, he had toys, we had water and juice and cookies. We had the camera and Slacker radio to feed us Christmas music even when the radio stations were beyond our reach.
All I needed to remember was to get gas before we got out of Livermore.
And before I knew it I was out of Livermore, onto Mines, the country road that would take us farther and farther away from anything resembling a gas station. Sure, we had enough gas to get us to the top, but I wasn't confident we had enough to get us all the way back down. Coasting could only get us so far. It was as I was realizing my oversight that I saw a sign reading: Del Valle Regional Park: 4 miles.
Well, if there's one thing I certainly learned in the wake of deciding to end my marriage just 7 months into my son's young life, it's that things don't always go according to plan. Actually, what I remembered--because I can't say the whole thing was news to me--was that I was never one for planning in the first place. Almost every event in my life that I now find worthy of a storytelling moment, in the aftermath, happened either spontaneously or was the result of a departure from the original plan.
Today's New Activity: Lakeside at Del Valle Regional Park
I certainly didn't imagine that the 365th day of this project would find me doing the hold-the-camera-out-faced-at-us pictures in front of a lake at an East Bay Regional Park (of course I didn't), and yet:
Kalil, what a sweetheart. He "helped" me push the stroller through the parking lot
before getting bored with all that and wanting to run.
And he really was a sweetheart--fascinated with everything and so very chilled out when we sat down for lunch by the lake.
He asked about 15,000 questions about the geese, which were plentiful.
And he giggled uncontrollably when I pointed downward at the gravel beach and told him to watch out for the goose poopies. "Goose poopies?!" he asked, shocked, with a smile of slight embarrassment in his voice.
We checked out crazy cool, exposed roots,
sat rapt as a single crane crossed our path, following the shoreline with a speed that suggested nowhere to be,
and relaxed as if we too were so free from obligation at the moment.
And you know what? We were.
Sure, there's plenty to be done. There always will be. And there are bills to be paid and new projects to embark upon and always, always something to be washed and folded.
And then, here today, there are these dozens of geese, and a handful of fishermen, and a quietly lapping body of water...and us.
I didn't think I'd be emotional today. It's not that I thought the last day of this project would find me feeling nothing, but I didn't wake up feeling mournful about the end. There's something like relief there, though it's closely trailed by the dozens of other things I want to get started on, now that I'll have some more time.
And yet when we pulled into the park today and I caught a glimpse of the sun reflecting off the water and the mostly leafless trees and the absolute stillness of everything, I was overcome with the sense of what today means to me, of how far I've come, of the reawakening of my heart.
I felt it again when, after lunch, Kalil asked me to pick him up so we could go look at the lake close up. He asked about the shells we found by the water's edge, about a stick jutting up from the lake's surface, and when a flock of geese flew westward overhead, he asked if they were going home to see their Mamas. And, of course, I said yes. And then the power of that word, of that concept struck me: Mama.
I hugged him tightly against me, so grateful for the blessing he is and so humbled by the tremendous task I have in raising him, the tremendous honor. Tears came fast and warm and salty, and before 10 seconds could pass, Kalil was asking me more questions, about the sounds of the water and wind and an approaching motorboat. No time for steeping emotional tea bags with a toddler around: best to just feel the moment and move on.
And for today, that was perfect. Sometimes a person doesn't need to cry and cry and cry. She just needs to cry. And to look backward with gratitude. And to look forward with greater wisdom. And to remember that each day in any given year is a gift and a blessing to be cherished, each person who enters her life a teacher, if she's willing to learn.