Small as Respite

Last Sunday, as Stephen and I drove home from the Anderson Valley after our Thanksgiving celebration, the sky was a clean blue, the sun, a brilliant yellow. This, after two days of heavy rain, and before that, two weeks of smoke from the Camp Fire.

We’d spent a lovely few days with my son, Jonah, and granddaughters, Amelie and Poppy, as well, of course, as their mother, Anya. We’d cooked and baked together, played games, worked puzzles, and on Saturday, another beautiful day, had taken a hike at the Mendocino Headlands.

I had a lot to think about on the ride home. Almost too much. So many moments of exquisite pleasure with my granddaughters. Poppy’s glee at her first loose tooth. Amelie’s meticulous placement of the pears, slice by slice, for the desert tart. Her pleasure at being the family “expert” for our game of Sorry. Poppy’s demonstration of a New Zealand accent.

As well as sweet family moments, with the six of us relaxing and simply enjoying each other’s company. Or listening as each of us at the Thanksgiving table, told, in turn, what we were grateful for. The three days of tender “Good night’s” and “See you in the morning’s.”

Not to mention my sadness that the holiday was over. That we were all going our separate ways. That the girls are growing up much too quickly.

There was also a great deal to see. Fall in the Anderson Valley means a riot of color, with oak leaves of flaming red and blazing yellow lining Route 128, one tree more gorgeous than the next. All against the backdrop of the greening hills and the billowing white of the clouds above.

Shortly into our drive, my mind was exploding with reflections and images from both the past few days and the countryside we were driving through. I couldn’t find a place to settle.

Then Steve slowed down and pointed to a tree to our right, which was much less spectacular than those I had been noticing. “That’s extraordinarily beautiful to me,” he said.

“Why?” I asked, perplexed.

“Because the ochre of the leaves and the grayish-green of the Spanish moss, though different in hue, are exactly the same intensity.

“Look, there’s another,” he said, after we had driven a bit further. And when I looked, I saw exactly what he meant. In the midst of the intense colors demanding my attention, his combination of leaves and Spanish moss offered a respite, a soft, harmonious combination that allowed me to relax in its beauty.

For the rest of our drive along 128, we remained on the lookout for further examples of Steve’s color combination. By the time we arrived in Cloverdale and merged onto 101 toward Berkeley, I realized that together, we had been seeing small, isolating one lovely color combination from a chorus of intensely saturated hues. Over the next few days, I’d have plenty of time to relive and reflect upon all we had shared over the holiday. But for now, I could rest in the serenity of small.

Detail of Stephen’s Painting


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