"Not yet?" I asked.
I'd thought this would be the week. It was early March and I was eagerly awaiting asparagus season. I'd turned the corner towards a long row of stalls at the farmer's market. My favorite vendor became visible. My heart sank as I saw only potatoes displayed at his stall. Asparagus season was not yet to be. It would be another long week before the lovely spears would trumpet the true arrival of spring. Forget the calendar, fresh asparagus in Northern California tells me that spring is here. But, it wouldn't be this week.
August in the Marin Headlands means a heavy dose of wet, white fog. It is my favorite time to hike here—a rare chance to climb way up into the sky. They say that the hills here were formed by the tensions of the San Andreas Fault. It is here that the invisible stress of Mother Earth is made visible for all to see. The hills are gentle reminders of the grumbling that's going on far below the surface. And with this strain and with this fog we're allowed to scrape the heavens. That's why I so love August in these Marin Headlands.
After the big trip the adrenaline rush was no more. The counting of days before the departure—that was gone too. Now it was just the two of us, the Bogey Man and I. Jet lag gripped me as I watched the shadows on the ceiling. The nighttime demons were out to play. The trip was gone. Over. All that was left were the photos and bills. It was back to, what the Italians call, the terrible dailiness of life. Normal life felt half-empty after this grand voyage. I was in a rut. I had a vacation hangover.
A bucolic path filled with the scent of jasmine—the old rail path is dotted with mothers and their strollers. A leaf blower in the distance says its time for the neighbors to keep up appearances and pick up debris. We wouldn't want to seem unseemly in this little spot of paradise. What would the neighbors think? It's another day in suburbia, the morning working its way into midday.
It's a brisk day in Northern California. I pull my coat collar tight up to my neck. This stops the downward draft that goes all the way to my waist. The overall visual effect makes me look like one of those little spies in Spy vs. Spy (Mad Magazine, circa 1968). On this day, I feel like the black spy waiting for the white spy's engagement. I prowl the sidewalks on the balls of my feet—the way cats do.
I looked out my window late yesterday morning. High clouds. Normally I like to make photos early in the morning when the air is fresh and the sun is golden—when the world is my own. But high, wispy clouds mean magic in photography so I broke my own rules. I went out with my camera in the latest part of the morning.
One of the best things about cell phones is that I can now talk to myself in public. Not that many years ago it was considered odd to have a conversation with oneself. Now people are talking aloud seemingly no one just about everywhere. True, they usually have some kind of Bluetooth earpiece attached to to them and they are, theoretically, talking to an other human being somewhere. But, who knows for sure?
Normally I like to go to Muir Beach very early in the morning, long before the summer crowds start to fill up the small beach. Muir Beach is best experienced alone, save a few turkey vultures, oyster catchers, seagulls, or pelicans. I like the sand when it's freshly combed by the surf and before myriad footsteps and paw prints muss it all up. Yet, sometimes I arrive late and the party has started without me. On those occasions, the beach is full, the day's story already unfolding.
High atop one of the tallest hills in the Marin Headlands is an FAA antenna. Looking like an odd, little silo, it can be seen from quite a distance. As one approaches it, its strangeness emerges. It stands in utter silence, braced against the ocean wind. Surrounded by a gleaming white fence, it is unapproachable. Warning signs tell hikers to stay away, stay off, don't tamper. Lives are at stake. In the post-9/11 world one dares not go near anything related to air traffic safety. I figured the fence was electrified or had some weird force field emanating from it. I steered way clear of the damned thing.
"Do you guys know how to get back on the Coastal Trail, going north?" I asked two hikers. I was getting desperate. I'd been hiking for about twelve miles on a hike that was supposed to be less than eight. I'd passed the stage of being curiously lost.