The stoplight at the bottom of the offramp was dead, as were the next two, at the grocery store and the high school. Not flashing red but three blank black eyes. Cars did the stop-and-go, politely taking turns.
Record heat and humidity was roasting September. Air-conditioners had sucked all the juice out of the wires, I figured, for the first but probably not the last time this summer. Three miles to go. Maybe it’s just these guys and not us? My garage door clicker clicked uselessly. Crap.
Things in my life seem to happen in fits and starts, like tremors along a fault line. Months and years go by with only an occasional rumble, a wiggle, and then suddenly I hear that train-coming sound and the chandeliers are swinging. Once in a while it’s big enough that the pantry’s glass containers fly to become shards on the kitchen floor, winking like jagged crystal islands in a lake of olive oil, soy sauce and red chili paste.
The current earthquake swarm – they call them that, did you know? same as bees – started about a year ago when my stepmother Margery was actively dying, the extent of the awful mess she’d made of things in her years-long oxygen-deprived state was becoming all too clear and my brother first had surgery to remove the cancer in his throat all in one deceptively beautiful September. As I wrote through the winter, my desk chair would rock and dance, reminding me not to trust even the ground.
These days I feel like I’m riding an old playground carousel pushed by a mean Big Kid. Unn-ugh, unn-ugh. Just when it slows enough to wobble and clunk, when I think if I open my eyes I won’t puke, those fat pink hands grab the rail and fling it again – unn-UGH – and I brace hard with my heels and ride the embossed sheet steel plate, hard bumps under my thighs, dead cold through my jeans, trying not to slide off into the clammy sand, the cutting gravel. And I wonder why it’s impossible to string two sentences together these days?
Winter is apparently out of whack too, appearing only at night. The temperatures at midnight have been just above freezing since November, the moon sharp and pale in the cloudless sky. The days are undecided, neither spring nor fall and certainly not winter: dry and eggshell blue; they seem resigned to being unassigned to a season; they wait but not expectantly.
It’s been a perfect July, weather goddess summer eighties warm, fogless nights, no haze on the horizon. One becomes complacent. Thursday was for errands and driving to and fro: 56, I5, S9.
Some trips are only about speed, the shortest distance between two points, the freeway-only route. Others are an impulse turn and swaying into the curves on the cut road in the sandstone bluff, past the last pines until the ocean on the right and the salt marsh on the left slams into view, a surprise assault and the smell of incoming tide. Sliding down the two-lane toward the old bridge that spans the inlet, a heron high-stepping in the slough and blue barrels rolling onto a compliant beach, the sand taking the mad energy and sending tame water sliding back. The Pacific is blues from a crayon memory, a paintbox, a garden – cornflower, turquoise, a Los Gatos sky. Far out the sea is a mercury slick, the wet pelt of a silver sea lion as big as a county, barely breathing in the stunning afternoon.
Sometimes while I’m working on a piece of writing, I’ll flip back through notes I’ve saved in a file named Random. I did that yesterday (while stuck on a paragraph I’d rewritten four times, apparently to punish it), and I found these bits from some recent seasons. They seemed to want to be together.
Posted in: casa de swell, human beans, my baby brother
Tags: adobe soup, aging, cancer, candace mann, del mar, earthquake, earthquake swarm, fall, la jolla, pacific ocean, power outage, sea lions, seasons, southern california, summer, summer fall winter spring, torrey pines beach, winter
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