Suzanne had three days off in a row this weekend, so we went on our first post-vaccination road trip. It wasn’t ambitious. In fact, “road trip” might even be the wrong phrase. Getaway, maybe? Back in April, when we started talking about options, she had lots of great ideas, to which I kept saying, “Um, that’s gonna be a lot of driving.” Despite my year of barely moving, I’ve still lost my enthusiasm for road trips that are all about the roads. I like being at new places, but I’m not a fan of getting to them. Eventually, we decided to go to Brookings, which is just two hours north of Arcata. It could easily be a day trip if one felt so inclined, but for a two day camping trip, it might also be fun.
Spoiler alert: it was!
The trip didn’t begin on the greatest of notes for me, though. As I started the van, I automatically checked to make sure Zelda was settled, before remembering that she wasn’t with me. I shoved the thought away, which lasted for about five minutes, until I had to brake at a stop sign and glanced over to make sure she was okay. Surprise, she still wasn’t there. It was the first time I’ve traveled alone since she died and I missed her like l lost her yesterday. The loneliness of driving without her felt like the throb of a newly broken bone, pulsing with my heartbeat. Not much fun, really. If I’d been looking at a longer drive, I honestly think I might have turned around and gone back to Arcata. But I made it to Brookings & met up with Suzanne in the Fred Meyer parking lot where we considered our camping options.
We hadn’t made reservations ahead of time, because of uncertainty about the weather plus lack of available reservable spots (they’re mostly first come, first served out of season), but Suzanne knew of a nice campground about an hour away from Brookings. I didn’t actually want to drive anymore, though, and the weather wasn’t as unpleasant as the weather apps had made it sound, so first we checked Harris Beach State Park, to see if they had any available sites. They did, so for $20/night, we wound up in semi-adjacent tent sites in the D loop.
If I was giving the campground a star rating, it would probably have to be 4 stars, because my site backed onto 101 and the traffic noise was pretty much non-stop. On the other hand, it was highway traffic noise, so reasonably smooth, plus the site was beautiful — level, spacious, treed & private — and there were easy walks down to a gorgeous beach. For $20/night, a total bargain. So maybe 5 stars. Or, since this is my own star rating system, maybe a 4.7. No reason I can’t use decimals!
We spent Friday in Brookings: visiting the beach, a couple of thrift stores, and the Humane Society. The Humane Society was, perhaps, misplaced optimism. We walked in and there was a white puppy with a patch over its eye. I had a moment of breathless hope, but it wasn’t Zelda. Like, just not even remotely close to Zelda. I told myself for a few seconds that of course if Zelda has come back, she’s in a puppy body now and she won’t remember her previous training or her previous life. But that puppy was Not Zelda. White, sure, and with a patch like the one Zelda outgrew after her own puppyhood, but just… Not Zelda. Meanwhile, a guy at the desk was surrendering a sweet, skinny, old black dog, whose owner was in the hospital. I had to go outside to stop myself from bursting into tears. If the universe does let Z come back to me, how will I know? What if I don’t recognize her? What if I miss her? Meanwhile, of course, the shelters are filled with dogs that need someone like me, with time and compassion and a quiet safe space to be, and what if I should be helping one of them? It took me a whole bunch of deep breaths and a walk on the beach before I could remind myself that I’m trusting the universe on this one. It’s out of my control. My job is to just to let go, while keeping my eyes open. Waiting is hard, though.
Saturday was more beach, a terrific drive through national forest land, some wading in a river (I think the Rogue, but I’m not 100% sure), and plenty of sunshine. We ate lunch at Barnacle Bistro in Gold Beach — our real first restaurant meal since the pandemic! It was outside on their socially distanced patio, so still with some caution, but it was both delightful and really, really weird to be reading a menu. We then spent the afternoon playing games at the picnic table back at the campground, ate a snack style dinner, built a campfire and toasted Peeps. It was a supremely perfect camping day: excellent company, great weather, interesting food, good exploring time, fun in all sorts of ways!
I’d have a tough time picking my favorite moment of the trip, but one of the highlights was definitely playing Codenames: Duet. We were terrible at it! It’s a word game and… well, you know, words are kinda my thing. Kinda Suzanne’s thing, too. If you’d asked either of us ahead of time if we would be good at this game, we would have been smug in our expectation that it would be easy. But it’s not! You set up a board of 25 words, with a card that tells you which words (based on their positions) are contacts (good) and assassins (bad). You and your partner take turns giving clues and guessing words from the clues, but you have a limited number of turns (9) in which to find 15 contacts, so your clues have to apply to more than one word. But at the same time, you don’t want them to apply to the wrong words, because some of the words on the board instantly end the game. (They’re the assassins.) So, for example, I gave the clue “Bogart” and wanted Suzanne to guess “whistle” and “lips.” She did, because she rocks. Second example: she gave me the clue “Goo goo g’joo” and wanted me to guess “walrus” and “egg”. Alas, I am not up on my Beatles music and failed. But much laughter ensued and really, games that make you laugh are just the best.
Sunday was gray and chilly, but we took one last walk on the beach before heading home. I was thinking about my friend Michelle as I walked. Gray beaches always make me think of her, because she loved the beach in winter: all of the first beaches in my life (that I remember, anyway) were with her. She also collected beach glass. Earlier this winter, on an extremely bad day, on an extremely clean beach, I found a piece of brown glass, still jagged, and it felt like a hug from her.
Anyway, on this day, I was wondering what our relationship would be like if she’d lived, wondering whether she would have stayed someone who loved me for who I am instead of wishing me different. Not loving despite, but loving because. It felt like I got my answer when, in rapid succession (and on another extremely clean beach), I found a piece of broken green glass; a piece of pastel blue glass, shaped like a heart if you looked at it right; and a second piece of blue glass that appeared when I told myself I was being silly to think Michelle was talking to me. Suzanne was then somewhat worried when she saw the tears running down my face, but… well, it’s not often that the universe provides such magical trash.