Friday, March 11, 2011

It's A Perfect Picture

I tugged the inside straps tight, then zipped the suitcase closed. I rolled toward the bedroom door and ran plunk into the two pairs of slacks on hangers on the door jamb that I'd forgotten to pack. Rats! I finally got on the road about 11 to Arroyo Grande, where my son was having a celebration of life for his wife, whom he'd lost in December, the next day, a Sunday.

It's a semi-long trip, driving alone, especially in my usual sleep-deprived condition. But what a glorious day for a drive, the warmest it had been in quite awhile.

As I drove down the highway out of our little town, by a place we call "The Scar," striding briskly up the rough shoulder of the road, there was a young woman, wearing skinny jeans, boots with fur cuffs, and a tight orange tank top (gee whiz, it wasn't that warm yet),  a back pack, long rust-colored hair in a wavy pony tail, exquisite posture.  Reading a book.

I was by her in a flash. There isn't room at this spot in the road to pull over, but, boy, would I have liked to catch her in a photo.

I'd taken my TomTom GPS through a 15-hour software and map update the week before, so had it turned on to see the effect of the changes. The first major change was its directing me to take a sharp left toward Coulterville, rather than straight down our short steep grade, or the long meander to the right of the "new" road. I think that reflects the efforts of some locals to get our short steep grade removed from GPS's so trucks, buses and trailers won't blindly follow disembodied voices up the road where they're forbidden.

Susan, my GPS computer voice, went mute when I chose my own route down the old grade, finally accepting my choice to go through the Red Hills, a Bureau of Land Management reserve. In contrast to its often spooky ambiance with seldom a car to be seen, this Saturday it was teeming with cars and people and horses and water crossings. Almost the first time I've ever had to yield at crossings, I had to stop three times.


First river crossing, Red Hills


Second river crossing, Red Hills

Gathering of horse people, Red Hills
As I made the left off of Red Hills Road onto the newly paved county road, I spotted the old stone corral off to the left, standing in perfect contrast to the emerald green grasses, inside and out, that is blanketing the hills. Its dappled brown stone is usually camouflaged under dusty oaks and by sere summer grass.

I was tempted to find a place to turn around and return for the photo, but traffic on this road was barreling along at a clip that made that dangerous.

The hills, all that perfect green, a picture in every direction and I realized that I would never get to Arroyo Grande if I stopped for every perfect picture. I would have to make a memory, and a note to recall it! So I will highlight a few of those mental pictures here, just for the joyous feeling the recollection brings to me.

I've mentioned before my quest for the perfect rock crops to capture in photos. The rock crops along this road were the absolute best ever. The sharpest, most pointed ones I've ever seen, almost black, the bare black oaks, the tiny twigs and branches of their canopies like black smoke at the top -- all against that voluptuous green grass. But I could not stop, as the newly paved roads have no shoulders whatsoever, dropping off on each side into a ditch.

Clumps of wildflowers along the margins of the road, the identical green, but sometimes broader blades or divided stems, with delicate yellow and white flowers.

Cattle in many colors and styles dotting the rolling hills, then rounding a corner and coming upon a herd of all-white Charolais, such a surprise. Farther on, the off-road motorcycle park, usually deserted, this day swarming with buzzing motorcycles flying up and down the hills.

Masses of vivid orange flowers, in sun-facing medians of the freeways, once I got there, either California poppies or African daisies, hard to tell on the fly. Fields in browns and tans and squat plantings, in rows and not, pre-season pre-crops, in orchards and groves with white and pink and pale purple flowers massed in patchwork patterns for long long miles, few signs of people but for those in cars on the roads.

A long stretch of road, sometimes four lanes, sometimes two lanes, many signals, no amenities, craving coffee, a caravan of small sedans, seeming to have difficulty staying together, even driving erratically as if unfamiliar with the cars, by men wearing what I think were Sikh turbans. Lost?

As I approached the coast, the skies were dappled, buttermilk. A contrail appeared to plunge toward earth, ending in squiggles that reminded me frighteningly of the dying Challenger, then noticed multiple contrails from many directions, all honing in on the same target.

Oh! I've decided I'm seeing this backwards. They are contrails radiating out in all directions from an airport somewhere.

I arrive at my son's toward the end of the afternoon. Looking out from his house there is a giant hole in the clouds, rimmed in sunlight.

A hole in the clouds, from my son's house


We go to the store to pick up food and I watch the sunset paint the clouds.

Coastal sunset tinting the clouds


Late night ramblings when I have an early morning tomorrow.

See you then if a busy day leaves a bit of time.

*

1 comment:

  1. I'm not so sure you shouldn't do a book of photographs with a brief synopsis of each grouping. You're really good at this!

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