The idea of Elsewhere

The idea of Elsewhere

 

I’m not sure when I gave up, but not long ago, I realized I’d thrown in the towel on our weather. Instead of grousing about it, I decided not to pay attention to it. I began to go about my day, do what I could to tolerate it better than I have in the past, and focus on everything else. This isn’t always easy when one is connected to those who live Elsewhere.

Elsewhere, it rains. The sky opens and precipitation falls–buckets of it. A flip of the calendar can bring snow–layers and layers of beautiful powdery snow. Leaves change color, smoke wafts from chimneys, and people begin to wax over pumpkin-spiced everything.

Here, the sun rises and sets. A sky with cloud formations constitutes a marvel. Fog drifting along the street behind the house, magical. Heat, especially at this time of year, is normal. Hot, Santa Ana winds, expected.

Wind adds a bit of drama to an otherwise monotonous Fall. Heat is something else all together.

I loathe the heat.

Yesterday, in spite of the forecasted stifling weather, my husband and I set out for a hike. I thought, as long as we were near the coast (think on the precipice of the continental land mass as it falls into the Pacific Ocean), we would be fine. Surely, there would be a breeze. Bear in mind that this mindset requires a good deal of tolerance for wearing long pants, a tank to help absorb perspiration, a long-sleeved shirt over that, and a hat. Copious amounts of sunscreen on exposed skin, large sunglasses, sturdy shoes and socks, of course. I tell my husband that because it’s a short hike of four miles, there would be no need for the bladder backpack he likes to don when we set out.

There was no trace of a breeze when we arrived. The flag posted at the visitor’s center was draped against the pole. Ocean water was placid, the stillness so complete that even at the height of our position, we could hear the harbor seals perched on buoys, barking incessantly.

If I had a huge umbrella, folding chair, and an ice chest full of frosty beverages, I might have been content to sit there. The view is remarkable in all directions, after all. On this morning especially, the thin blanket of fog in the distance obscuring the mountains in Baja California and the Coronado Cays was beautiful. I would be semi-content to sit and admire the subtle beauty of it. I’d have to be able to inhale cool air under those conditions to consider being satisfied, and confess that a winter storm with gale force winds is what it would take to make me truly happy.

We set off for the lighthouse, taking our time. I notice the few native shrubs along the way, parched after so many months without rain. Everything else is brown. There’s no relief from the sun outside of the lacy shadow of a dead pine against a low wall where one visitor has decided to stretch out for a nap. In contrast, I want to dive into the ocean. I want to feel cool water against my skin. I want to feel weightless on the surface of the water. Instead, I roll my sleeves up and pull my hat down over my forehead. I wonder what it feels like to be in the Sahara because I already know what Las Vegas feels like.

The small lighthouse appeals to me. It makes me think of the lighthouses I’ve seen in New England. The rooms inside it are sparse, but they’re dark and cool. The thick walls have protected them from the sun’s glare.

“Can you imagine the isolation?” my husband says, peering through the plexiglass attached to each doorway.

“Yeah, I can,” I respond. “I’d love it.” He knows this about me and indulges me the fantasy.

How two people who are so different can like each other, let alone love each other, is remarkable. I know he prefers a crush of humans in a busy city, the cacophony that accompanies it, exhilarating. But we’ve learned over more than 30 years how to appreciate what the other loves. There’s a time and place for everything. He loves the sun and the heat. Today, I’m indulging him.

He waits patiently as I position my camera over the circular stairwell, quietly judging the quality of the view I would capture, nodding his head as I explain this type of shot was “a thing” on Instagram. I’m surprised when I look at it later because it’s actually not bad.

I take time to switch lenses; he admires the northwest view. I know with another busy season in the bag, he’s thinking about life at a different speed. He could be simply thinking about the blue line of the ocean meeting the sky, but that’s on the esoteric side for him. I haven’t seen him check his phone to see how his fantasy team is doing, so it’s a distinct possibility that he’s wondering about that while he’s staring off into the wild blue yonder.

The drinking fountain nearby is a welcome sight and I gulp.¬†Minutes later, he asks if I got some water. He’s like that.

We take the trail down the hill toward the water. Others are wearing shorts and tanks. They’re hatless. Most are younger, but not all. A few are dressed as if they were on a weekend stroll, wedged strappy sandals crunching against the gravel, dangling earrings flashing in the sunlight. I can’t help the story my brain begins to weave about who they are and why they’re here. I trudge down the hill taking note of the trail marker which sports an illustration of a snake.

We stop when we feel the breeze pick up, gazing at the ocean. We talk of whatever comes to mind. He talks of work. I listen. We continue along.

“The drag about this hike is it’s uphill all the way back,” I say.

“I know.” He has to be waiting for me to throw in the towel, but we continue. He gave me an out earlier because of the heat and I knew that meant even he thought it was hot.

I’m ready to take my over shirt off by now and tie it around my waist but I don’t. I let it flap about me as we walk. I fuss with the camera strap over my shoulder.

Two younger women pass after we stop along the trail. They’re engrossed in talk, tanned, and dressed in something I’d expect to see on people on a beautiful day in Paradise. At the end of the trail, they take the only bench and I joke about asking them to share it with us, squeezing in next to them. We both laugh about it as we continue to a place where we can stand. We talk about the nerdish types of things we usually discuss: the shape of the big bay, the mountains in the distance, whether North Island is a land fill. We wonder aloud what it must have been like in the forties, the fifties. A sleepy town with a large military presence which remains to this day.

It’s difficult not to think of why I’d like to live elsewhere at this point in my life. I’ve learned to appreciate much of what living here offers. That has to be obvious considering I’m out in this weather, getting exercise, taking in the unusual beauty of a parched landscape against the brilliance of the ocean. Yes, I think of that. I think of how I ended up here, and consider what has kept me. I think of the difficulty of moving elsewhere simply because I crave something different. Anything different.

I look at the skyline of the city I’ve lived in since 1968, the city I’ve spent most of my life. I appreciate so much about it. My home is here. My grown children are here–at least for the time being. Most everyone else on my side of the family has gone, yet all of my husband’s family remains.

My head pounds in the heat, but heading back up the hill isn’t difficult. I’m surprised. “Is my face red?” I lift my hat and look at my husband who nods. I think about how much more I would have enjoyed the day if it had been cooler. I think of how much I’ve enjoyed it in spite of the heat.

In the car on the way down the peninsula,¬† I see joggers along the road and can’t help but think it’s more a show of bravado than anything else. Do we get points for exercising in extreme conditions? I hear the comments of those I know who live in places less temperate than San Diego: Yes, but it’s a dry heat!¬† I appreciate the iced bottle of water purchased in the visitor’s center on the way home. It’s gone by the time we arrive.

 

Today was supposed to be cooler, but it was 90 degrees before noon.

I’ll never enjoy this. Nearly fifty years have taught me that tolerance is a tenuous thing.

I long for green, for seasons, for rain.

I long for Elsewhere.