Monday, September 20, 2010
In high school, a few friends and I used to cut school after recess, pile into a couple of cars and drive out of town up High Street which becomes Empire Grade. To the left of the east entrance to UCSC, we’d pull over and slide through the fence to walk into the place we referred to as Hobbit Land. We’d bring food, instruments, blankets to sit on, substances for indulgence and whatever else we could carry for an afternoon.
Once you crossed the field and slipped through a second barbed-wire fence, there was a trail that went along a creek, Moore Creek, perhaps, and a bridge across that creek, at which point the trail took us momentarily deeper into the woods. Limestone mining had been done here and the remnants of the operation were still there. Then the redwood forest opened up into meadow again, but small meadow bordered with trees.
That’s when I discovered that rooms existed not only in buildings but in nature. I’d be walking along and see parting between bushes, no trail, just a subtle space. As if the trees and bushes intentionally leaned away, arching their branches, so I could enter. Once through the bush-and-tree-doorway, there would be an actual room—a large space surrounded by trees and bushes with a grassy floor. In spring the floor was lush and green; in summer, dry and brittle. There wasn’t just one such room but several, in various locations off the main trail. I used to pretend I lived on this land and imagined which room would be my bedroom, where the kitchen was, etc. I kept changing my mind. Until finally I settled on a particular arrangement and never veered again. I can see it now as though I’m standing there. My bedroom is to the path’s right. It’s before you get to the meadow where we always spent the day.
At Jacks Peak, I think there must be these kind of outdoor rooms too. But the poison oak is so lush, I’ll never leave the path to find them. Except, so far, in two places. Right at the beginning of the switch backs, on Skyline Trail, there’s a thick stand of young Monterey Pines, at least I think there Montereys. There’s little vegetation below their branches and the needles make a bouncy bed on the forest’s floor. I’ve found several cozy rooms there. And at the top of Moser Trail, where the bench is and the wind is and the view of Pt. Lobos, well, that’s a room for living in!
Maybe the reason I like the woods best, as opposed to wide, open places, is because I’ve always been drawn to small spaces, not too tight, but well-contained. I like the sequestered, the hidden, the place you have to work a bit to find. When I was little, my favorite rooms were the one behind the closet and up the back stairs at my grandmother’s house in West Springfield, Massachusetts and the tiny, entirely open to the world room below the stairs’ hand rail on the side yard of my grandparents’ house in Astoria, Queens. No grown-up could sit in that spot. No grown-up would move the brooms and mops and buckets out of the way to reach the back stairs at Gram’s. I could spend a long time in a world I’d made myself. It had most all I needed, except for supper.
I’m back in Santa Cruz this weekend for an overnight with my oldest friend, from 7th grade, Pam. We laugh together and get silly. And we can talk about pretty much anything; I can’t think of what I wouldn’t tell her. This is the just right medicine for me right now.
In middle and high school when Pam spent the night at my house we slept neatly in my single bed. It’s a good thing that though this hotel room has only one bed it’s way bigger than that! First thing Sunday morning, we set out for a walk close to that old place. But you can’t park off the road anymore where we used to, so we enter another way, which doesn’t actually lead us all the way to Hobbit Land. I don’t get to go back to nature’s rooms of long ago. We take a long, hardy walk from meadow through trees, veering far as we can away from poison oak, get a nice view of the ocean, slither (though not as elegantly as long ago) through a barbed wire fence, head into the trees, fall in love with an oak covered in Spanish Moss, and turn back. Pam’s going to see her mother and you probably know where I’m going.
It’s funny how certain friendships are. No, actually, it’s damn !*%!*!* lucky how they are. Only a very few in my life. Enough. Pam and I may not see each other for a year or two, yet the moment we get together, time evaporates like so much fog after the sun breaks through. It’s just like a room, our friendship is. It’s got all we need.
Posted by Patrice Vecchione at 6:46 AM