Although I made no real promises either to myself or anyone else, I had visualized quite a few more “parts” to my roadtrip story. After Part 2: Atlanta I meant to write the part about New Orleans and Mardi Gras and the boathouse and the great-horned owls; the part about my 14 hour drive across TX and my discovery of Palo Duro Canyon State Park; the part about my brief stay in NM, a state which refuses to let go of my heart; the part about the greatest bachelorette party ever (a two night camping trip with a friend in Channel Islands Nat’l Park); and the part about driving the length of the CA coast, which is what you would find me scribbling about tonight if I had stuck to my blogging schedule.
This trip has been odd in the sense that I am traveling by myself, but I have spent so much intense and amazing time with other people. I have visited some of my best friends and have gotten to share experiences with them that have floored me. I genuinely like being by myself and have enjoyed the challenges and adventures that come with solo travel, so much so that I have put off seeing a friend for a day or two in order to relish my solitude and total independence. However, aside from that first brilliant moment on Myrtle Beach which I mentioned before, I have found myself sharing my snow-angel moments with other people. Beaming at the world in general is well and good, but seeing an answering grin on a friend’s face and knowing that the joy surging through you is setting them on fire too takes it to a whole new level.
In LA I spent an incredible late afternoon exploring the bayous with a friend. Every egret we saw was whiter and more elegant than the last. Pelicans kept us company as we watched boats bustle up the water channels. The sunset was glorious. And just when we thought we had seen everything the day held, a dark smudge at the top of a tree turned out to be a great-horned owl. And then a second owl landed on a nearby branch. My friend and I were dumbstruck – and joy-struck.
On the boat ride out to Santa Cruz Island (the largest of the 5 islands that make up Channel Islands Nat’l Park) a different friend and I, along with the rest of the passengers, were treated to a humpback whale who seemed to be having a snow-angel moment of it’s own. It circled the boat, dove beneath it, and rose straight out of the water in front of us – majestic and comic all at once.
Exploring Santa Cruz Island that same afternoon was like being caught in a joy whirlwind. Everywhere we looked there was a jaw-droppingly beautiful vista, or a splendid bit of flora or fauna. Although my legs ached that night from romping across 15 miles worth of trail, my face ached even more from smiling. Ridiculous.
After dropping my friend off at the airport I set sail into the remaining 12 or so days of my trip, cheerful about being on my own again. I thoroughly enjoyed driving up the CA coast on Rt 1, and contentedly explored parts of the Big Sur area with just my camera and binoculars for company. However, it crossed my mind as I was standing on Point Lobos watching migrating Gray Whales pass, that I missed having a friend to share the experience with. I texted my little sister and told her as much, and she reminded me that I was sharing the experience through my photos and blogging. Oh right, I was supposed to be blogging about this trip!
I determined to spend that evening writing, documenting my experiences. I stopped in Marina for the night and fortified myself with a cozy motel room and plenty of internet service. But then I popped out for a quick pint at a local brew pub and my blogging plans were hijacked by fate and a total stranger.
I had snow-angel moments this past weekend while watching waves crash on Marina State Beach (no ocean does waves the way the Pacific does them!), while hiking in Pinnacles Nat’l Monument, while under the spell of the jellies at Monterey Bay Aquarium, and while saturating my soul in stunningly good music. I made those metaphorical snow-angels with someone who was the eye of this joyous storm, whose very existence (a kindred spirit, and one so unexpectedly met) causes me to cry “Hurray!” That’s what my snow-angel moments sound like, by the way – I don’t know how to better articulate the rush of happiness and humbleness and pleasure in being alive to receive the blessing of such things than with a “Hurray!” Which sounds a bit silly and not very profound, but I don’t care.
I’m in awe of the gift that has been given to me and I have no idea why I am so fortunate. What could I ever do to give back to the universe even a fraction of what it has given me in the past few weeks? That’s a project that will fill the rest of my life, and the incredible thing is that there will still, surely, be more snow-angel moments for me in the future.
I’ve been too busy experiencing things to document them here as I planned to, but tonight I’m overflowing – hence this copious word-dump. I’ll stop blathering and soul searching now, and just share a few more pictures to convey all the things that I can’t quite put into words.
Only 5 days more, and then a whole new sort of adventure will begin!