The wind off the Farallones has carved these cliffs into a massive Georgia O’Keefe sculpture. We walk for miles beneath their steep shoulder, taking the wind at full brace, grateful for Gortex and nylon and the sturdy company of old friends. Patrick and Maria are our pals from 20 years ago in Cambridge, back when Noel and Patrick were in residency, back before either of us had children or mortgages or aging parents. Two decades later and two coasts apart, we pick up where we left off on a visit to see them last July in Point Reyes, California. We ramble for long hikes in eucalyptus-scented forests, while away an afternoon on a blustery jaunt down Limantour Beach, only now the trail of conversation leads from organizing school auctions to moderating teen moodiness to Maria’s painting and my writing, then back again to parenting — to our parents.

We’re astounded by the similarities — both Maria’s father and mine have Alzheimer’s; both of us watch their accomplished lives erode, like these weathered cliffs, into a craggy confusion. We share concerns about the care they receive and struggle with complex relationships with our father’s spouses. We walk in step, in silence, watching as gulls and peregrines kite overhead, our answer-less questions soaring  and circling with them.

A month and a half after returning from our Pacific sojourn, my dad has died. An email from Maria last week tells me her father passed away in February. Long hikes come to an end. She writes, you know what it’s like to lose someone twice, especially with mixed feelings.

This past weekend Noel and I stole away to Dewees Island, an island idyll just 20 minutes from our house, but it’s our first time alone and away since that magical California trek last summer. We putter along empty beaches for miles and miles, reconnect with the old friend that is silence, and each other. Noel studies driftwood; I gather shells. Loads of them —  fragile foreclosed homes of whelks and sea snails,  spent sand dollars, the emptied envelope of the lettered olive. I trace my fingers along their broken spirals, place their abandoned loveliness in my pockets. Carry them gingerly, so the still-connected pearly-gray angel wings don’t break apart.

~ by Stephanie on 03/15/2011.

4 Responses to “Along.Limantour.Shore”

  1. I can feel the sand between my toes as you write. You’ve captured the long view here, in the image of the smallest wonders, like the fragile shell you carry. I’m glad to be taking the long walk with you, too.

  2. I could read your writing all day long —

  3. Lovely. I still keep a pair, unfortunately unattached, in a flowerpot on my back steps, in case Jim needs them. but I think he has made it. best, Harriet

  4. A pair of angel wings, I meant, of course. Harriet

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