We were staying at the White Motel on the edge of Ashland the day President Nixon resigned.
"It's my birthday," Simone complained, "but everyone is watching television!"
"I don't mind the driving," Sherrill once told me on the way to Ashland, "but don't expect me to drink that Lithia Water." All of us were disgusted by the rotten egg smell and taste of the natural springs in Ashland's Lithia Park, but most of us tolerated it because supposedly it was good for us. Not Sherrill.
"Worse than any road in Mexico," she muttered grimly. At least, we weren't attempting it in the rain, I told her, pointing out the foot-deep ruts. "Don't fret," she said. "I wouldn't."
Then the dusty gray forest opened up to a scene out of an old western movie: two little cabins of weathered wood, a rustically fenced pasture, a little unpainted barn, and blue-green water from melting snow and glaciers rushing past. There was no denying the beauty of it all. Our friends' cabins had no electricity, running water, or heat except for small wood-burning stoves, but the kids loved living like pioneers in the forest. The water was too frigid for swimming, but we never knew what animals might greet us when we went for a morning walk. A porcupine or skunk? A deer or two? Or maybe a cougar?
This didn't turn out to be exactly a restful experience—it was seldom comfortable and there were always chores to do—but it was unique for us and memorable. And we could gather fresh clams along the shore and follow trails near the cabins to pick thimble berries. The forest around us was decorated with colorful, grotesque, and sometimes beautiful mushrooms and other parasites of all sizes, none of which were edible.
"Look what you can do when you have space and money," I grinned.
"And people to do the work," she countered.
Our hillside garden in Berkeley kept us busy, but I had no doubt that this place would give Sherrill new ideas. More than a hundred years ago, the Butcharts' original garden was started in an abandoned quarry, then a Japanese garden was added and a rose garden and Italian garden and on and on, everything designed to lead the visitor from one beautiful experience to the next. Paths curved and meandered, disappeared and reappeared, enticed and surprised. For the next forty years, I built and rebuilt and improved garden paths—and the garden beds growing around them, of course.
The months and years ahead took us in other directions on day excursions or week-long trips, from time to time even longer: to the California State Fair in Sacramento, to Oregon's astonishing Crater Lake and with friends to quiet Crescent Lake, also in Oregon, to the famous San Diego Zoo, to Santa Cruz and its Shakespeare festival on the forested university campus, to Long Beach for Thanksgiving on the moored Queen Mary, with one of Simone's friends to Disneyland again, and even to Honolulu again for Christmas with Sherrill's mother. How lucky we were, we kept telling each other, to live surrounded by so many wonderful places.
"And how lucky you are," Sherrill pointed out, "to have a wife who's such a wonderful driver."
To be continued....
If you enjoy these posts, why not explore the rest of my website, too? Just click on the buttons at the top of the page and discover where they take you—including to several complete short stories and excerpts from my novels. You also might enjoy the new bargain-priced e-edition of my North Beach novel, The Night Action. Just click on the title link.