This past weekend my friends and I traveled to Ft. Bragg, California to a house Kaye had found and Ronda had rented for us. Kaye and I carpooled and met B. G. to take her SUV for the last leg of the trip. We agreed to listen to Team of Rivals after hearing B. G.’s review about Mary Todd Lincoln’s mental state of being either “in the basement” or “in the attic.” It sounded familiar. We all understood the idea of burning our candle at both ends, the Ace of Wands of new inspirations which can sometimes seem like the match that set the barn on fire.
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord
After all, that’s why we have these “Goddess Weekends,” because we all need respite from the “barn on fire” thing that is modern life. We talked and never listened to the book on tape, interrupting Mary’s basement and attic for more recent history as the miles rolled by. It was still light when we arrived at the luxury house on the rocky cliffs on the south side of the California coastal town of Ft. Bragg.
Ft. Bragg has long been one of my favorite easy getaways. My husband and I have often gone there even when the weather was raw and loved it. But our Goddess Weekend met its promise for glorious October sunshine. The house! There were slate floors throughout, skylights and a wall of windows making the most of the ocean view. We had a hot tub, a fireplace and beach access. We were prepared: Little did Julie know that we had plotted celebration for her. And Kaye brought her telescope. We were rewarded with a moonless night and plenty of stars.
Telescopes sure have changed. Kaye’s new baby is a lot like a lightweight red tuba on a football tee. I pointed it at the bright thing in the southeastern skies.
“Look! You can see planets,” we were properly amazed. “Think we can stay up late enough to see the meteor shower?” The Orionids were due to light up the sky. What could be better? The Milky Way ablaze over rocky ocean cliffs and waves below, plus a light show!
It’s our 19th year of getting together. Essentially we all know each other through Ronda. I happen to be the “newbie” since I met Ronda only in 1990. I was there for the initial weekend. It was the weekend Polly Klaas was taken from her bedroom window in nearby Petaluma, an unthinkable crime against innocence. Ever since then, our weekends together, now twice a year, have been dedicated to Polly. It is our candle in the darkness.
But the course of true relaxation never runs smooth and this year, to my barely suppressed annoyance, I was the Drama Queen. True, not everything that happened was about me. I can be grateful for that. Ronda’s dog Sofie expressed her upset tummy in a sudden way that was quickly cleaned up. Sofie’s a very gentle soul and we would never want her to feel like she was a bad doggie for a bit of personal business. We had sandwiches for dinner, told our stories and huddled around the fireplace while we listened to the ocean’s roar. We retired in comfort to our separate bunks, but then Ronda and I sneaked out to see if we could catch a meteor. In the quiet of the night and in our bare feet and pajamas we were rewarded with a single streaking blaze from Orion’s belt parallel with his sword. Satisfied with tagging our meteor, we retreated to slumber but not before I took a last longing look at the starlit beach and rolling waves which, with each roll glowed with churned bioluminescence. The response of nature to nature is to glow.
“Marcia, I heard you last night.” This is a recurring theme. As if I can control my snoring when I’m asleep! I had offered everyone hot pink foam earplugs the night before. Everyone had giggled but left their earplugs behind. Hey, both my parents were champion snorers. And I snored when I was a size 2 for those of you who think fluffy people snore more. It’s the slack jaw and sloppy soft palate, folks. Think of it as the musical accompaniment to the night.
B. G. made a de-lish couple of breakfast quiches with fruit and we were ready to start the day. Almost. I realized as I had gone to take my morning prescriptions that my blood pressure medicine was not in my bag. That rattle when Kaye had hit the brakes for a surprise stop must have sent them flying under the seat of her car, the car that we left in Ronda’s driveway when we consolidated to carpool. Now I had to figure out how to get a couple of tide-me-overs for the weekend. Fortunately, both my insurance and the local CVS pharmacy were willing, although it took hours to pull it off. And we got a chance to sneak a little shopping into mix. I snagged a couple of African market baskets (to put tarot cards in, of course) and some beads that looked like beach glass for a project I have in mind. It was a modest splurge as they go.
On the way back, we practiced our special song for Julie’s celebration while Julie rode with Ronda and Sofie. We continued in the acoustics of the vaulted ceilings in the living room of our luxury beach house, perfecting our harmonies, tweaking our arrangement while the guest of honor was delayed at Harvest Market. Julie was in charge of dinner and served us an Italian meatball soup worth writing home about. (Read: John, this is what your “snot soup” wants to be when it grows up, seriously.)
We held our celebration for Julie’s croning without setting ourselves and the house on fire, reading our poems and singing our songs. Julie is wise and drop-dead gorgeous, with an enormous heart in that well-tended body. She is a Big Sister to a little girl whose life seems to be turning a corner. She is a woman who Makes a Difference. We think that’s what Polly might have wanted.
I read tarot for everyone and we discussed the serious topics the cards nudged us into, life, love, work, health, home, future. Half the ladies landed in the hot tub for a midnight soak in the cool night air. I changed into my jammies and wandered out to say good night and salute the Milky Way once more. And then I discovered I had locked myself out of my bedroom, the bedroom for which there was no key, the bedroom where my glasses, my prescriptions, my book, my clothes, my tarot cards, fer goodness’ sake, were safe from every creature save a bug that could clear the doorsweep. Tired, we looked for a key, useless as it was. We attempted picking the lock and even Googled lockpicking, hairpin in hand. No luck. I gave up and called the housekeeper who promised to come the next day at 8 am. I sank into the couch with more waves against the sand, more reports of snoring the next morning.
Does trouble have to come in threes? Or fours? Or all at once? We realized we wanted to tidy up for the housekeeper’s arrival and there they were. The pumpkins Julie had selected and hollowed out for us to carve as jack-o’-lanterns had collapsed in an ooze of mold from the heat of the fireplace. The remains dispatched to the yard waste bin, I broke the news to Julie.
“The pumpkins died.”
“Died. Really dead. Ooshy-squishy dead. Runny puddles dead. They are pumpkin roadkill.”
Housekeeper Alma, good soul, arrived, unlocked and I was rescued again. Kaye and I made breakfast, bacon and French toast, something none of us would ever eat ordinarily. We cleaned obsessively and all at once it ended.
We’re thinking Hawaii in 2013. It seems like a good place to visit after the end of the world, Mayan time. We’ll light another candle for Polly. And for all of us.
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