As per the note in my previous post, I think I’ve begun to delete the first hours of any given travel day from my conscious memory – the subtle trauma of uprooting from all one’s immediate connections, affections, and securities being rendered worthy of hypocampilly fuzzing over, I suppose. Plus traveling involves a certain amount voluntary disorientation, so maybe some of that sticks, even after the fact…
Either way, what I do remember of my trek out of the city (ah! It begins to come back now) is a good deal of traffic – although the weather was pleasant and I enjoyed airing my arms when I could avoid asphyxiating myself with car fumes at the same time – and trying to ignore the spiritually atrophying (to me) aridity of the area surrounding San Fransisco in anticipation of releasing my powers of perception on beneficiaries of a lusher and more tender tendency. This I did poorly, when the time came, as I tried to have a long overdue phone conversation with a Dearest Bestie (the one who’s parents treated us to fish in Coos Bay and to whose rescuing, Fort Braggian aunt and uncle I was growing increasingly nigh again). Alas, for my service provider was inadequate to the task of following me around the tight, narrow, and constant turns through the hilly, sunlit-shadow patchwork of the forest road to my destination and I kept losing service, re-calling, etc, etc. Quite sad, because we had a lot to catch up on and little time to do it in anyways, as she’s a busy woman in D.C. at the moment, but we managed to exchange enough information to satisfy us enough until our next opportunity, and – as you may have ascertained already – it wasn’t the best road to be trying to navigate while on the phone anyways…
The journey thus proportionately lengthened as the curvaceousness of my route hindered the Intrepid‘s pace, I arrived at my destiny at approximately four-o-clock in the afternoon of a pleasant Californian Sunday, which also happened to be September the 1st.
Said destiny at this moment had the face of an old white building within which a vivacious and – as I would soon discover – entrepreneurial later-middle-aged lady proprietor greeted and outside of which stood a sign bedecked “Weller House Inn“. We had a nice conversation (the lady, not the sign, and I) and were mutually pleased at meeting each other and our agreed-upon arrangement. It was decided that I was to help organize and manage her office, which at that point was labor I found myself much more favorably inclined towards than the manual sort, since my college gears were starting to feel neglected already and I had manual-labored by way across multiple states by now.
I spent a little while chatting with her about logistics and getting acquainted and then set about settling my things in the little back-boudoir (a storage room with a bed, really, as I believe the rest of the house was full) near the kitchen. After said tranquilizing of my equipage, I set out to my next quite necessary mission of – much like Texas – finding short-term work in this small town, in not-yet-tourist-season, on short notice (this time on a Sunday afternoon even) since I would be unable to ever leave if I did not (ruling out hitch-hiking, anyways). I figured, at the very least, any shops open at 6:00pm on Sunday probably had enough business that they might be hiring.
The “downtown” area of Fort Bragg is essentially three blocks long and two blocks deep (and very conveniently one block from what was now my new abode). The town as a whole extends a good deal past that in all directions, but that was the entirety of the main shop area. I figured if I was going to be working off room and board, something close by would be convenient, so I thought to try that area first. They were nice, cute shops too, although I wasn’t really noticing at the time. I just started at one end of those series of blocks and popped in to every shop or restaurant that was open, inquiring after the possibility for work. A few places gave me applications, just since I asked, and I left my phone number with one lady in a posh little restaurant for her manager, since they were actively looking for someone. I decided to keep going an additional block past the main downtown because, well, first of all I just sort of felt like it, but I had also seen a Jewish building and was curious to inquire, as I have many Jewish friends and a Messianic bent to my theology as well.
Since it was later in the evening by now I was a little surprised to find anyone in at that time, but there was a nice little gift shop with seaside-themed items as well as Jewish jewelry and traditional items. When I mentioned I was looking for work the jolly bearded gentleman behind the counter (and the lady in the back he kept calling questions to) tentatively said that they actually did need help editing their website, but had limited means. When I mentioned that much of what I would need over the next month was just groceries, we ended up enthusiastically working out a form of HelpX where I would help edit (although I warned them I was unfamiliar with their software platform, but enjoyed editing and aesthetic work) in exchange for the “board” part of room and board, since my hostess provided breakfasts but only occasional other meals. After leaving with appreciation for the fact that I had made a couple pleasant new acquaintances and at least had my current expenses covered, and while on my way back to the Inn, I got a call from the manager of a the restaurant (in very fact The Restaurant) in which I had left my number. She wanted me to come in soon and asked me when I could. I said I was two blocks away right then and she said she was free! I was so excited! It was now close to 8:00pm.
After showing up and becoming acquainted with the proprietor of that establishment, we found that my coming temporarily might work out very well for them as they were at an interim between employees leaving for college and finding replacements. Of course they preferred longer commitments, but, given the circumstances, so long as I didn’t mind being ousted I had a job.
So by the time I got ready to actually use my new bedroom on the first day of my arrival – in fact five hours after pulling in and only three hours after going out to inquire about work, on a Sunday evening, in a small town – I had two jobs! One for current expenses and one to earn money to get up and down the coast a couple (*cough* three) more times and (*hopefully*) home for Christmas! I blame my FOBGA again (my Flock of Balding Guardian Angels – balding because I imagine them with silver hair already and I needed a way to visualize the impact of the stress I put them under) for such successes ^_^. The next morning I had yet another boon, as the Innkeeper had been so pleased at the idea of an office manager that she invited me to stay until January if I so desired! So I had no more worries about trying to find another place to go for October and November unless I wanted to.
I awoke the next morning and jumped straight into orientation on my tasks with all three jobs – Air BnB, Website editing, and bussing at The Restaurant.
The following weeks were a nice flow of feeling rooted again, moreso even than when I was in Montana, because I had a rough plan to get me round until I was home again, whereas in Montana I knew there was a large unknown in front of me. For the first week or two I was the only HelpX helper there, so I was able to get comfortable in my own introverted way. I enjoyed working in the office by day and The Restaurant in the evening, with some web editing work in the middle. I enjoyed chilling in the library (she has great collection!) in my free time for the first couple of weeks.
I also discovered this paper pertaining to a record set by the proprietors father (!):
Things livened up a bit once more helpers started coming in. First there were two sisters and their boyfriends who were artisans of different kinds (two crafts-people, a chef, and a yoga aficionado) who made for good conversation in the evening and our hostess ended up making us a beautiful dinner once or twice which gave us all a good chance to chat. They brought on a movie night of The Never-Ending Story, and other such oldies, as well as an extended jig-saw puzzle attempt, which was quite fun, as I didn’t grow up with that as an activity. Then a philosophical photographer/scriptwriting joined us. She and I ended up checking out the local fitness center I had been interested in and going sight-seeing and window-shopping in Mendocino, which is just a bit south of Fort Bragg (and even smaller! Which I thought was curious since I was more familiar with the name) during which we had a great time deeply engaged in a very enriching spiritual conversation, beginning in a graveyard. It also gave me sufficient motivation to check into the sports-center, such that I decided to get a month’s membership, both to get back into swimming and hopefully get to some of their zumba and yoga classes, which I had been wanting to get involved in for a couple of years without much success due to access struggles and ignorance…or something akin to a lack of motivation.
The Mendocino area was full of cute, artistic shops and the coast itself, with the gray overcast, was quite calming and adventurous.
I was beginning to realize by this time what amazing sunsets Fort Bragg has. And everyone knows that pictures do sunsets no justice, right?
I was also blessed by the loan of a sewing machine by one of the artisan sisters, as I had a necessary uniform for bussing in The Restaurant, but could only afford a pair of thrift-store pants that didn’t fit. Got by with a makeshift I finagled on the floor of the below boudoir, like I have almost always relied on as a difficult to fit size:
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By this time I was getting enough into the swing of things I really wanted to make good on some of the excellent bike trails around, since my new Jewish friends offered me the use of one of their bikes and my employer at The Restaurant was an avid biker and always talking about it. I spent as much time as I could bring myself to (which wasn’t as much as I should have) checking out the amazing sunsets and gorgeous trails.
My birthday, in late mid-September, was one of the best I can remember, as my brother came up from San Fransisco and I got to share all of this with him! As well as catch him up on some of the same stuff I had been mulling over with my Bestie – life and stuff, y’know. Since he’s lived in CA for years, we don’t really get the chance to catch up on a deeper level that often, as we don’t prefer those convos over the phone within the fam, and we were all more just enjoying hanging out while we were all together a couple of weeks before. It’s one of the only chats I can remember with him that was all about who we are, who we could be, who we’re becoming, etc., which are basically my favorite conversations (aside from quests for ultimate Truth) and I particularly adore that with my big bwudda, as there’s something about a big brother caring enough to share and ask that’s just super special ^_^, and I think he brought the subjects up too! His treating me to a steak dinner, cocktail, and cheesecake (at my Restaurant – a desert I’d craaaved) over a discussion of the dynamics of true feminism was also kind of amazing. And OOOoh. That. Steak. O_O…. One of three or four things I’ve ever consumed I can still remember the flavor of and drool over because it was so amazing. And we got the cheesecake from my Restaurant, that I had been really wanting to try :). Then we had a long walk along the beach at sunset and well past dark on the easy-to-follow, yet quite foggy, lamplit bike path that follows the coastline.
It was also greatly cheered by the compliment a friend of mine sent me with her gift (we have the same birthday, so we always remember each other). I have always adored this poster and she made my year by saying she thought of me every time she saw it ^_^ (a mutual sentiment) (…and sorry for all the smiley-emojis… Bad blog form, but for this post, I don’t care):
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One of my best days there occurred when I had an awesome 8-hour walk along the beach including a several-hour chat on the phone with that Bestie I couldn’t reach on the drive over (such a lovely chat – and aaall that processing over life to do!). Even on sand my bare feet were pretty raw by the end of it, but maaaaan was it worth it! I also bumped into a world-famous photographer by the name of Henthorne who was in the middle of a project called “Between the Worlds” with an artist my brother had introduced me to via Youtube several years before who does sand art. Check out their project website! All of those pictures, to my knowledge, were taken right along the beach I had been walking all day. I was stoked to watch it in action. I had so much sand and shore time that day and can still use that memory to revive myself when I soul-crave sunny beach time ^_^.
I had a good little while with an intense swarm of birds for a stretch of beach:
And it was fun following my footsteps back for 4 hours. Also, I was impressed with… well, my impression. I was wearing Levi’s, apparently… and packing one’s legs in damp sand is pretty much awesome. The Hawaiian-looking kelp-palm-tree scene below was the imaginative artwork of some beachgoer:
And I saw this great strip of mini-dunes that made me craaaaave a dirtbike right then:
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The remainder of the following month carried along much the same way, with a pleasant work schedule, beautiful beach-town surroundings, amazing sunsets, and continued community.
In fact! Spanish Javier (HA-vee) and Eve (EH-ba) and British Tom (TOM)… 😉 … showed up on the scene and made my days so much fun. Such a blast! And Eve decided I needed to be greeted every day with an enthusiastic “Ahhhhh! Briguita! GUUAApoooooo, yeah??”. I mean, who doesn’t want someone crying out to their bloated-from-living-off-of-bread self “sooo beautiful!! ;D ” every morning?? And Tom had the best idea for that rough-cut Scottish oatmeal (mostly just eating it – I hadn’t heard of it before) to go with his dry, snarky, lovely comments.
Another highlight within that excellence, though, was that my close friend from Oxford’s mother, whom I had met immediately before my trip to the British Isles on my way from Texas to Michigan…
Er…Ok, *ahem* backing up a touch (… you can look up where I glossed over that very briefly at the end of that post or skip this paragraph altogether), as I mentioned in my first British Isles post, I had been to Oxford for a summer trip, my first time really abroad (if Canada doesn’t count) when I was 19 (best. trip. ever… I mean. Firsts are always best in a way, right?? Someday another post for that…) and made a really awesome friend in my student housing. We stayed friends partly through his introduction to me of a leadership seminar series. When I happened to be driving back from Texas to Michigan, he happened to be back home right where I was passing through in Ohio, staying in his family’s home as they waited for the arrival of his first baby. His parents very hospitably put me up for the night and I became friends with his Mom through our shared experience in those leadership seminars and mutual love of nutrition (they are all doctors). She became something of a mentor to me through a nutrition product I began to sell under her (Juice+ – this is her video – which is awesome, although I don’t sell it any more). A lovely Christian woman with a very down-to-earth, forward-thinking, encompassing worldview and perspective on life.
Anyways, she apparently just happened to have a little vacation home in Mendocino, which she just happened to be visiting for a few days, and seeing that I was in the area, invited me for a chat in her brief window of available time.
That small snippet of time was so perfect to what I had been learning over the whole month and my traveling year generally. She showed me around her adorable little house and then, meandering along the jagged coastline (right up to where my friend got married, which I didn’t know until I walked into exactly the scene I had creeped on Facebook through his wedding photos! Stunning! My camera was dead, alas, but he’s permissioned me to share his, below).
We chatted about my adventures since May and my conundrums in deciding where and how to go in life. She shared about meditation and an amazing book by a Christian woman that she ended up giving me when we got back called “One Thousand Gifts“, by Ann Voskamp (book review someday). It’s a very poetic read about appreciation for all the beauty in life, even when it’s hard – not just hard circumstantially, but when we separate ourselves from that appreciation by feeling like we have other things we need to do first, and then, of course, never get around to being done with all of that. My mentor discussed meditation from a Christian context and the importance of being still. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) has been an anchoring verse for me since a couple years before graduating and my sister got me a ring with that for graduation without knowing it was special to me. It is very difficult for me, though, and even as I’m writing this a year and a half later, that’s still a huge theme for me, always working on bringing that to a new level (I mean, so far this blog is all about Gypsying, right?? It comes from somewhere…). I will definitely write on that at length at some point, but at that time, we finished our chat and I said goodbye to her. Then, before heading back to all the “stuff” I had to do (which I had been getting aggravated by and absorbed in), I determined that I would sit along the incredible coastline and just absorb and appreciate its beauty for three minutes (all I felt like I could discipline myself to do) instead of speeding to my to-dos. So I sat and watched the waves.
At three minutes I decided a couple more (30 seconds or so) would be good.
At ten I decided to continue to sit.
I decided to stop checking after that for a while, and I think I sat for an hour and a half, completely absorbed in the soothing sunshine and the rushing of the waves below me, before it started to get darker and a chill came up, gently inviting me out of my investment. The spot I was sitting was (I didn’t realize until later) immediately in the background of another of their wedding shots. The waves below are absolutely mesmerizing as they swirl into and out of the curling rocks.
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I highly recommend it. Such better clarity. So much of the soul-reviving beauty we all have access to (although not always a beach scene) that we shed by ignoring it every moment and wonder why we’re dry.
It made a huge impact on my perspective, because I didn’t just think about the difference of perspective. I engaged in it and it so, so quenched my inner coarse desert of anxiety and angst.
Soon after that, conveniently, the Bed & Breakfast hosted a Yoga retreat, led by another Christian woman, and they invited me to join them in any of their sessions. I had been wanting to learn yoga and had been playing with it a little, so it was really nice to be able to join in a group setting, led by a very spiritually conscientious and grounding woman.
Then, as I celebrate the Jewish Feasts and I had a community to share them with, we ended up having a celebration with all of my HelpX buddies with the Messianic family and their small congregation. I made challah, which is suuuch a yummy bread, and we had a really lovely time together as a little miss-mashed community of Jews, Spaniards, a British fellow, some Californians, and a Montanan. It’s moments when you look around at true friends and cherish that evening, because you know you’re almost certainly never going to be in quite the same celebration with those same souls all together again, but it is so real if you can accept the day as it is at the time. So those conversations became quite applied.
That was shortly before I decided to leave the area, around when I had tentatively planned on anyways, and those recent soul-developments sent me away with an adjustment to and depth of perspective that has stayed with me since.
I had a very rich time bidding all of my HelpX friends adieu, although, alas! for English “Tom” (the bearded one) I thought was gone already and I left without giving him a hug when, apparently, he had waited for me so that he could do just that D’: . If you’re out there Thomas, I still need that hug (and we never could find you on Facebook! 😦 ). (Eva, thou darling, is on the right selfie-ing, Javier is on the left, and Lena is the craftswoman).
I knew I was eventually going to end up back in Montana for Christmas by December 1st, but I appreciated soaking in the last bit of stability and community before I took off for another whirlwind several weeks, anticipating those several trips along almost the whole length of the coast between this mid-October departure and the end of November!
But, looking forward to visiting with my good college friends’ parents, who had warmly invited me to stay with them for an annual duck barbecue, I had enough of a spiritual oasis (and dinner!) to look forward to that, after *ahem* driving back to the BnB once or twice having forgotten my phone charger and maybe some shoes or something, I drove away from the coast, and beyond the redwoods, into and through the great Sacramento Valley.