Wow, there is a lot to keep me going on this journey, even without museums, restaurants, or indoor performances. I am especially grateful to have this opportunity to see a few of our incredible national parks. My first on this trip is Joshua Tree. On Sunday, while the rest of America was watching the Super Bowl, I was hiking one of America’s Super Parks.
I left Santa Barbara on Thursday, heading for the places I’d lived as a child, not exactly intentionally but because those places were on my path anyway. My first stop was more of a drive-by. After buying gas in Pasadena, I made a 2-mile detour south to San Marino, where I lived as a teenager. Rich, conservative San Marino was an unlikely place for us, neither rich nor conservative, but we survived the John Birch Society, the cops who trolled the likes of us in Lacey Park, and being the only family without a gardener.
Yesterday, I had a beautiful but uneventful drive from Cambria to Santa Barbara. Sometimes I need to remind myself that travel is mostly not about events. It’s a lot of feeling the moment and the place, which can mean inspiration, wonder, disgust, reverence, fear or omg even boredom. And, like the rest life, travel is trying things that don’t always work out.
Yesterday morning, I left Berkeley in my car with a suitcase, a bag of food, and a plan to get to Louisiana at some point. I’m not sure of the path I will take, or how long I will be on the road, but I am happy. Free and unreliable and doubled masked. My first destination: Cambria, 200 miles south on the California coast.
About ten years ago, I made a list of things I wanted to do before I’m not here anymore. Like a bucket list. It included living long enough to hug my grandchildren. It also included “saving a life.” At the time, I wasn’t sure how I was going to save a life since I’m not a medical professional and I’m not very strong. But I now realize that “saving a life” doesn’t require a dramatic gesture to prevent someone’s imminent death. It’s also helping people feel hope, easing their pain, and supporting their path with dignity. This isn’t very hard to do.
In 1980, an aging Yemeni woman living in a Palestinian village was involuntarily relocated to a bland immigrant camp. She was an artist and felt stifled by the white walls of her new house, so she bought cans of paint and, over several years, covered her white walls with the rich motifs of Yemei embroidery. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/afias-house-shlomi-israel Her project got her through a difficult time, and it is wondrous.
I have been listening to the Senate hearings to confirm a judge who seems to agree that the Voting Rights Act represents “the perpetuation of racial entitlement.” The conversation reminded me of the “racial entitlement” I observed during the 2004 presidential election. I went to Reno, Nevada, as a poll watcher for a national nonprofit organization. I went with a group of friends not expecting much. Here is what I saw in only six hours in a city where the polls were managed by the local GOP:
In the past six months, I have been operating at about 30% capacity. Yes, I have tried volunteering and writing and baking. I hike a lot and keep in touch with friends and family. I remind myself how good my life is, but my feelings ignore my thoughts. At this time of my life, I need new places and people and ideas. I need instability.