Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Plaintive Cry of a Seagull ...

[Alegria Inn of Mendocino]

... dislodges from my memory and breaks in upon my thoughts as I glumly sit staring out onto the smoke-filled gardens. My dear friend Britt-Arnhild entreated me to share the location of my favorite place after she offered the most enchanting gift of her musings about living on an island. Her poetic and thoughtful details carried me away from the depressing reality of yet another cloistered day to avoid the unhealthy smoke-filled surrounds. Her parting words invited me to share my dreams, and since I felt particularly languid in the heat of the afternoon, I seized the opportunity to take mental flight and visit the seaside.
"Alegria," the name sings joyful memories to me. Defined as "The state of being joyful," this Spanish word aptly christens my favorite inn-by-the-sea in Mendocino, California . Tucked away in the cleft of a rock above Mendocino Bay, a cluster of unlikely buildings huddle under an enormous eucalyptus tree which sheds fragrant shavings to carpet the pathway to the sea. Perched above the cove, the crashing waves and changing tide envelop "Alegria" with the tang of salty breath present from the dawn of time. My "room with a view" affords me every amenity required to leave the busy-ness of life behind and waltz away to my dream of dancing through each day with the sole task of savoring the daily events, choosing to store only the most precious away in my heart for future pondering.
As a child living through dark times I fantasized about running away to the sea and living in a tiny cottage furnished with only the barest of essentials: one chipped mug, a single plate, and an endlessly changing vista to feast my eyes upon as I soaked in the peacefulness. I read incessantly, choosing solitary adventures and dream-fulfilling tales. Happy endings floated on sea breezes and lingered long after sunset. To live at the sea would be grand ...
After marrying and having three children we moved near the coastal town of Santa Cruz -- above the fog, yet close enough to pop to the water's edge whenever I felt need to cool my toes in the surf or dance in the sunset over the liquid horizon. We lived in a delightful cottage under a canopy of redwoods in the loamy soil of centuries' decay. Spinning stories and weaving tales gave way to changing diapers and leading children along the path of life; but oh, what a magical path we found to explore. Times grew tough, funds grew short, but such experiences evoke deeper prayers and fuel bigger dreams all nourished by a love filled with happily-ever-after promises. I went from reading tales to telling them as my children gathered at my knee in the backyard glen we claimed as our own. Days grew into years, three children grew to five and the cottage hugged us tightly ... too tightly. So, one day we packed and left the seaside life to climb the next mountain.
I left heavy of heart and longing to cling to the salt-crusted cliffs I loved so well. Up, up, up to the heat of summer and snows of winter found on majestic outcroppings of ancient granite. Gone from the salt-laced breezes, venturing out from the cool shade of centuries old forest growth, we followed God's call into the golden grasses and recovering lands of a gold-mining town from the 1840's.
"No gardens!" sobbed four-year-old Lydia, echoing my own broken-hearted state as we sat amidst red clay and dried up grasses. And so I reached into my dreams and sketched out the gardens we could not see, but could look forward to. In story and dancing hand motions I planned and she listened, scrunching her eyes up tight to see what lay solely in our imagination. We sat upon the baking deck stairs and dreamed cool, green garden dreams as I dried her tears. Though she couldn't feel the grass, she could anticipate its sometime-to-be cushion.
"It's so HOT!" moaned 10-year-old Elizabeth on an over 100-degree day. Once again I pulled out hopeful words to paint a picture of summer afternoons spent dipping into a book in the cooling breeze of a fan, counting the hours until one could go out under the stars of a balmy night and play for hours amidst the starlight and wonder of summer's sky. (Back at the seaside, dampness and chill drove us indoors at the close of the afternoon, never later than 4 pm.) The first after-dinner foray to romp in the balmy air of summertime in the mountains brought all complaining to an abrupt end.
Autumn arrived in a golden carriage encrusted with jewels of the most regal hues; but this pageantry of leaf-changing glory paled when compared the the delightfully-heaped remnants of each leafy bower. We raked and raked these tired leaves of summer into inviting mattresses just ripe for princesses and princes alike to plop into; and then we raked them all over again for the next splashing down of a royally-playful bottom. Work never felt so good. Giggles shook the trees and brought down even more leafy delights. Whereas the nip in the air that ushers in winter couldn't silence the playful songs, the first flake of snow rendered us all speechless. No cries of complaint or delight cracked the frozen silence as we stood enraptured in the cascading symphony of crystalline beauty that iced every bare oak branch and steadfast evergreen bough. The bare tree limbs sported a dazzling adornment that rivalled the finest of lace as they bowed in honor of the weight of the beauteous burden.
After a season of slumbering with an occasional frosting of white and all the fun enfolded therein, the lands awoke to spring's lilting call. The pastoral sweetness sugar coated each tree and shrub with the pinks and lavenders and whites and blues of every fairy dream I had ever carried in my heart. "Surely this place holds a remnant of Eden," I breathed most gently lest I break the spell of beauty. And so I set about to plant and nurture the gardens I had once-upon-a-time sketched for sweet, sobbing Lydia.
Now, I never lost my delight with the sea. Nor can I go for too long without making my way westward for a toe-dipping, salt-breathing venture to the land of sunsets over crashing waves. However, I now know that Alegria follows me wherever I go. My dreams of living by the seaside nudged aside to make enough room to include my serendipitous joy found here in the shelter of a mountain's slope. Sometimes I even go east ... up, up, up ... to Lake Tahoe -- the site of my ever-so-romantic honeymoon of nearly 24 years ago. I dip my toes in the icy lake, breathe deeply the woodsiness cloaked in scents unlike those found in my seaside forest home or the rugged coastlines of Mendocino. And so I conclude: I meet my Alegria wherever I lay my heart to rest ... East ... West ... or Home (best).

* * * * *
Is it my imagination, or has the smoke cleared a path to the blueness I have been missing? How long have I been mentally traveling through this post? Surely long enough for me to need a morsel of something delectable and a cuppa tea, which I may just carry to the tea table under the spreading cherry tree in the slightly bluing sky and smile as I wallow in Alegria.


Schotzy said...

AW!!!!you have such a way with words. I was comletely entranced by your tale! In a word...
mesmerizing! Thanks so much for sharing!

Britt-Arnhild said...

Debbie, these words are beautiful. I sit here looking at my computer screen, but my mind has travelled long and far with the help of your words.

Thanks for linking to my blog.

Don't tell anybody, but I have strong plans to make your blog my Blog of the Week next week......;-)

noble pig said...

I love the word Alegria...have you ever heard the Cirque du Soleil soundtrack...they have an song called Alegris...it's so beautiful.

Lucy said...

Hi Debbie, I feel like I know you and your whole family from KD. What a beautiful trip back to SC and Mendocino. I too miss it and carry it with me everyday. I am where God has planted me for now and must me thankful and learn to see a different kind of beauty.
Lucy (Susie)

FancyHorse said...

Such a beautiful word picture ~ several word pictures, in fact. You are a very talented writer! I'm glad I found you through Casa Maria.

Theresa said...

Thank you for the journey. Having grown up in WA state, the heat of the CA valley is overwhelming and sweltering and the smog, even without the fires overtakes me at times. Whenever I get too homesick my Husband takes me to the sea. Hmmm... just the scent of the air, I can imagine it and almost smell it now! When it's just a day, we go to Goat Rock Beach on the Sonoma Coast (3 hrs one way) but when we can get away we love to go to Fort Bragg and Mendocino. It's so beautiful there... now if my Hubby could only make a living there! :o) One can always dream! Even though I do not like the climate and some aspects of being in the city, God has taught my heart to be satisfied with the gifts and provisions He has given me and I am learning how to "bloom where I am planted." Your post so reminded me of this journey in my own heart!