An unexpected detour

June 6, 2012

This afternoon, I drove north on a coastal road I hadn’t been on in over twentyfive years. I had somewhere to be, but no particular time I had to be there. As I drove, my satellite radio started playing an oddly nostalgic, to me, series of songs.

Before I had even realized it, I had taken an exit and looped back towards the water. I instantly recognized where I was and where I was going. I was headed to the place where my true life began, to a seaside village on the central coast.

Because our photo albums were lost by military movers decades ago, I haven’t even seen pictures of this place, twice my home, since I had last left.

My true life began there. It is where I found my only love and to where I fled from my former life.

I opened all the windows and the glass top of my car and let the cool bay breeze wash over me. I was flooded with emotional memories of meeting my best friend and making her my wife. I drove past the place where we had our first kiss and past the place we first did other stuff. I drove past where we had gotten married, on a hillside overlooking the bay.

I maneuvered to these places without the help of my GPS or even bothering to look at the street signs. I wondered why the way was so easy for me, after all these years and then I realized this was the geography of my dreams.

When I have my happy, fairytale dreams, they happen in a fictionalized version of this seaside village on a hill.

I drove down the street we used to walk before we managed to buy our first piece-of-shit used car. The street we walked down to the Dream Theater and Cannery Row.

I saw these places through the wistful lens of my memory, recalling the framing of the pictures I took. Pictures of places where we laughed, pictures of the place my friend worked when he came to visit us, pictures of the place where I would take my rolls of film to be developed – mentally checking the boxes on the white envelope I stuffed them in.

I drove to these places with an SUV full of film equipment. I told myself I would make an incredible home movie about the places that had evolved and those that had impossibly stayed the same. I wanted to memorialize the intense reaction I was having to being back… home.

But, as I stopped and started to extract my gear from the mass of cases that held them, I realized that I didn’t want to. I remembered my old Arabic instructor here telling me how the Bedouins believed that a photo stole their soul.

I put my equipment away and as I stepped around my car, I saw that I had stopped at a little place that deserved to have its picture taken. It is not a beautiful looking place, it is certainly no tourist attraction. But it is a place that means something to me and to the most important person in my life.

I took a quick snap of the place and felt very much at peace.

I left the seaside village and continued north – to the place where my first son was born. And further north where my younger son began.

Destiny is not an inevitability; it is a series of opportunities to act. We have had many opportunities to act in the last year and I’m glad we haven’t hesitated to do so.

I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back here again. And that’s okay.

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