At the Bottom of the Hill

was the ocean. The Mendocino coast is rocky and wild. In places, the rock formations are eerily lunar. You feel like you’re somewhere no one has ever been before.

The road to Gualala winds north through dairies and ranches and then narrows into the redwoods. But every once in a while, you’ll come around a curve and see the ocean out there, to your left, to the west. The ocean smells like earth, and rain and salt.
The children measured the span of a 2,400 year old redwood by making a human chain, with their arms stretched around it. So huge, but still, something an eleven year old boy can touch, while thinking about how the Greeks were at the height of their civilization when the tree began growing. And there were frogs everywhere — one boy spent a lot of time walking around with a frog on his cheek, then his forehead and finally hanging onto his hair. I should mention that these were very small, friendly, sort of cute and not slimy frogs. Their abundance is a sign that all is well in this environment. On the shore, my son found a small pair of antlers bleached white by the Gualala River. They became his talisman and good luck charm.

On Thursday, we kayaked down the river, stopping for science experiments in the rain (there’s a lot of oxygen in the river, which is a good thing) and then lunch in the rain under a tree. At the end of the day, the sun came out and a small group of us (my son and I, the intrepid teacher, another parent and three children) kept going along the river to where it gave out into the ocean. We pulled up on a sandy beach and walked over a sand dune and there was the Pacific, quite wild, a lot of crashing waves and driftwood. I learned that, with good enough rain gear, you can do almost anything. After a childhood of wet feet and hands, being out in the rain and actually having a nice time was redemptive.

Certainly, I never would have guessed that I’d love kayaking in the rain as much as I did. The kayaks were one person boats — very light, they skimmed along the water, even where it was quite shallow. Ahead and above were canopies of trees, green and gold in the mist and the rain. It was more beautiful than I can say.

I’ve got a bit more to go to the end. As many of you guessed, on occasion sleep and my love of hot showers won out over words. Still, it was exciting and fun and productive enough during the evening I did get to write. But I’m considering the great downhill to be at an end. Now it’s just a cruise to the finish today and tomorrow and possibly Monday, with my children away at soccer games and friends’ houses. I’ll be happy to type “the end.” But first, a quick peek to see what what everyone’s been writing and doing in the last week!


16 thoughts on “At the Bottom of the Hill

  1. Kayaking is one of those things I’ve always looked at and said, well, maybe someday. Your description makes me think that someday may be sooner than I think.

    Welcome back BL.

  2. I went to Mendocino nearly fourteen years ago. You’re making me yearn to return. And I could love to have a frog traveling companion. And good luck with typing “The End!”

  3. Sounds like a great vacation. Sometimes physical exertion is what’s needed. I’m not a frog fan but those little tiny ones sounded quite appealing! Good luck with the final words of your novel.

  4. Wonderful pictures, both word and photographic! That’s good to know that rain gear can make outdoorsy stuff in the rain pleasant. The last time I was out hiking in Mendocino and it rained heavily, I got totally soaked from head to soggy socks and it was not fun.

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