Monday, January 9, 2012

book excerpt: Cold Feet

Cold Feet In Mendo

Stu and I, we went to Mendocino once a year. I also went there for an annual basketball tournament for many years. Strangely, when I returned there, it never seemed as if I had been gone that long.
While there, I always visited certain places in the seaside town and walked on the headlands. The signature bookstore has only gotten better over the years, and although many businesses have changed hands, they are still in harmony with the town or are “variations on a theme,” a theme of Victorian, pride of ownership, survival of an old fishing town on a windswept headland.
' True, tourism is alive in Mendocino – which was not true when Stu and I first went there – then, it was a community struggling and eventually striving. The battered, driftwood appearance of the cliff town was not illusory back then, and such was its authenticity that it attracted refugees from the 60's and 70's who were seeking a simpler life, and who believed that beauty and meagre existence might help them to achieve that.
Fog, wind, rain or blazing sun, I have always walked on the headlands – to the edges of the cliffs, to the verge of the Pacific Ocean, to the wild of the surf pounding the rocks; to the sodden trails, wiggling through tall grass, vines, and lilies.
In the spring of 2011, I went back there with my daughter where she had business, thinking that I might renew my acquaintance with the place and the memories. Together, we enjoyed garden flowers and pathways and boardwalks between buildings, access that could have been (and once was) designated for utility and trash. We visited the bookstore, the coffee shop, the bakery, the bright gift shops, and the galleries: places to lose oneself in the dreams of artists and artisans.
When my daughter left to do what she came to do, I walked out on the headlands, despite the drizzle - which seemed poetically fitting for awhile since I missed Stu, and the memories of us in Mendo were so poignant that it seemed (yet again) that his absence was impossible. Impossible!
I walked for hours in drizzle, in squalls. There were periods of sleet, and winks of the sun in sterling patches of blue. I walked until I was at peace - and cold to the bone.
My so-called waterproof shoes eventually failed me. I went to the store, scored plastic bags and bought a new pair of wool socks. I sat on a bench, put on my new warm socks, plastic bags, and then went to the bookstore and out to lunch. Hot soup, hot coffee, and a new book to read. Wow! This was life. A perfect arrangement – for awhile – until the cold came back to my feet, achy cold, unusual cold.
I, on my achy feet, returned to the car, but since I did not have the car keys, there was no heat to be had. I heaped my bag on my feet and read my book until the pain in my feet was a distraction, and then I did the unthinkable, I called my daughter, disturbing her in her work. She brought me the car keys, and then hurried away, saying, “Mom,” in a drawn out sing-song.
Usually, I do not like motels, but the thought of getting dry and warm and wearing deliciously dry clothes was a winner. The hot shower warmed me to the bones, feet and all, and I felt lucky as I wrapped my feet in my down sleeping bag, wiggling my warming toes. I read my book and became absorbed in another life but not so much that I was not conscious of the pleasure of my warming feet.
I have dealt with extreme conditions before and (obviously) have had cold feet, but I have never experienced warming feet, feet in the process of warming. The usual is: numb feet, painfully cold feet, not so cold feet, no longer cold feet. This occasion was different; I was aware of a steadily heightened relief, and it was beautiful! Notable. Memorable. Simple pleasure!

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