I’ve been to California and back since the last time I posted. I grew up in southern California and lived in a number of different towns up and down the coast until seventeen years ago when I moved to the Northwest. So my family is still there. My dad, that quintessential Gemini, was the one who stayed in touch with all the nieces, nephews, cousins, great-nieces, nephews, cousins . . . great-GREAT-nieces, nephews, cousins . . . and we all heard about each other through him. Now that he’s gone, we need to be better at staying in touch with each other ourselves. So when one of my Sacramento cousins decided to have a big 60th birthday bash and I was waffling about whether or not to go, I heard my dad’s voice inside my head saying “Get your butt in gear, and go, daughter!” So I did.
Every journey to California is a journey into my past. The hot, dry central valley is the landscape of interminable car trips of my childhood, when we would drive from Los Angeles to Salinas, San Francisco, and Elk Creek to visit the uncles and their families. (My dad and his brothers, six of them, left Oklahoma for California during the 30’s after their parents died.) At the party last Saturday, I spent a lot of time watching my cousins’ grandchildren play. I kept feeling the presence of the uncles and aunts, and seeing their features in the faces of the little ones. It seemed to me that the generations just keep tumbling down through the years . . . descendants of the elder ones become ancestors themselves, and give way to the younger generations. I wept a bit, feeling the air thick with presences.
On Sunday I drove down the central valley and across the coastal mountains to Salinas (Steinbeck country) to visit my last living aunt. She is 87 and lives in an assisted living home, just like my dad did during his last year. We visited for a couple of hours, reminiscing about the old days when all the brothers and their wives and children would get together. “I never knew another family that loved each other the way those boys did,” she smiled. “Oh, what good times we had.” And a little later she told me, “I really don’t know why I’m still here. I’ve done everything I wanted to do, and I’ve outlived just about everyone too. But I guess the Good Lord has His reasons.”
I cried a bit when I left, as she is the last of my father’s generation. For many years, she and my dad were the only ones left of the uncles and their wives. Now she is the only one, and I’m not sure I will ever see her alive again.
From Salinas, I drove northwest through artichoke country, and the coastal fog began to move in. By the time I got to Santa Cruz the sun had broken through the mist, just in time for a spectacular setting. I drove up Highway 9 through little towns called Felton and Ben Lomond and Brookdale. This is the landscape of my maiden years, these winding roads and hills thick with redwood trees. When I was 18 and 19 and 20, I would leave my dorm at UCI (University of California, Irvine) and drive up the coast to visit friends at the UC campuses in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Berkeley. I fell deeply, deeply in love with Highway 9 and wanted desperately to live there. I didn’t quite manage it, although I did end up living in the east Bay with my young family a few years later. And I used to take my two young boys camping in Big Basin Redwoods State Park once or twice every summer. I’ve spent many magical times in those woods outside of Boulder Creek. And there I was on Sunday evening, in Boulder Creek once again, pulling up outside of my friend Julie’s house in the woods.
Julie is one of the sister-priestesses of the Silver Grove. I got to know her on the journey to Avalon a couple of years ago. She is a gifted quilt artist and her home is filled with vibrant creative energy, bright colors and the wonderful cacophony of two adolescent boys, a charming husband, a big friendly dog and a few cats. And a parakeet. I felt right at home.
Some of the other Silver Grove priestesses — Lunaea, Kat and Bryn — came over on Monday and we had a royal feast. After dinner, we did a few group Tarot readings and chatted about this and that. I told the sisters about the times I used to camp in the redwoods when my boys were little, and how special those times were. And how, last month when I was in Maine, my son Steve told me that his dad had spread his brother’s ashes there in Big Basin where we used to camp. I never knew that. As we talked, I realized that the Santa Cruz mountains are a special place indeed for me, as it’s a place where I’m integrating both the maiden and elder aspects of myself. “And the mother,” Lunaea put in. And she’s right. All three in one.
I traveled home on Tuesday, and recovered in the soft island sunshine yesterday. It was my mother’s birthday, so she was on my mind, along with all the sights and sounds of my journey into the past. Late in the afternoon my son Steve called from Maine with the news that his wife Jenn is pregnant. I just about dropped the phone I was so excited, so happy, so joyous and so emotional. I really didn’t know it would affect me so deeply. Even this morning my eyes keep filling up. What a blessing, especially with the news coming right on the heels of my trip into the past. The future, it seems, is on the east coast, in Maine.
Come the end of January, I’ll be a grandma. Welcome, little Aquarius. Welcome, welcome, welcome.