Lately, as I explore new nooks and hidden hamlets of Marin on my way to somewhere, I get turned around, led adrift, and feel like I’m wandering instead of due to arrive. It dawned on me, my face responding with an amused smile, that I’m supposed to take the long way these days. Like I did after the tug of war.
Just as I was preparing to cram my sweats into my
Louis Vuitton luggage garbage bag, I caught the eye of a passenger on the boat that was playing all Switzerland during the war in the mouth of the Bolinas lagoon. (I believe they were secretly pulling for Bo.) When the boat came close to drop off a passenger I asked for a ride across. She gave me a nod and smile and held up one finger. The index finger. My swim across the mouth of the lagoon would wait another day.
Good thing. I was hoping to train in the English Channel first. Besides, I forgot my shark cage.
I jumped aboard the center console fishing boat (my dream car) and once across the lagoon, at the request of the Captain, jumped out before the bottom of his vessel could brush up against the sand. Contrary to what you might think, I was not pummeled like a boated tuna upon landing.
I turned to look at the party brewing back on Bo. There was a parade to be had, bands to listen to, and certainly award-winning people watching as the day played out. They were still celebrating. A great big part of me wanted to be there. But I had happily accepted my first party invitation outside of the little gatherings we’ve had on the compound and planned to spend the night with a couple I adore in their hillside cottage in Stinson.
Did you pull? Just behind me, to my right was a smiling, graying, sweatshirt-wearing man who looked as if his days of pulling were behind him, but many days of fishing still to be had.
I did! For Bolinas…
Ah, next time you pull for us, okay? I caught him checking me out, but it was all about the muscle. His intent was clear: We need to win next year.
He meandered off to find his friends and grown children, one of several men in their sixties and young seventies that purchased a piece of paradise in Stinson Beach and ventured out to see the tug for the umpteenth time. I fell in line behind the crowd as they climbed a gentle slope, stepping between beach grasses and sea shells, making their way to the road that loops through the gated community known as Sea Drift and back to their homes.
From the Mesa, looking south, Sea Drift appears to be an island instead of the northern tip of Stinson Beach. The Pacific greets large houses, some modern, a few offbeat and lots of beachy retreats all nestled together, facing west. East of them two rows of homes, cottages and ranches, with a few stretching the boundaries of their precious plots of land and rising to two stories, ring a man made lagoon. Those on the far east side of Sea Drift have the Bolinas Lagoon as their front yard. All of these homes are blessed with a wondrous view of the hills that rise sharply to the east.
The street was bustling, which is to say it was quiet but active. A couple riding bikes casually made their way south. A man and his son perused the offerings at one of the many lemonade stands I passed. Yes, I said offerings. These stands were more like bakeries that also served lemonade. Cookies, brownies, croissants. Note to young entrepreneurs on Sea Drift: Next year make some gluten free goodies and I’ll be buying.
That is, if I’m invited back.
When I made it to my destination there was not a person to be found. I knocked on the door. Silence. I texted my friends, but in Stinson cell signals are hard to come by. A sense of adventure swirled about. If I don’t find the party, I’ll find the place I’m supposed to be. Disappointment wanted to find a way in, but these days I prefer to view crossed signals as disrupted by divine intervention.
Loitering seemed like a bad idea in these parts, so I continued on, making my way towards town and enjoying the opportunity to see this community close up and on foot. Surf boards and paddle boards rested against homes decorated with the usual beachside ornaments – star fish, buoys, little lighthouses, woven rope draped alongside walkways, sand colored gravel, blooming roses and wispy sea grasses. Some of these homes are occupied year round, others are often rented, and some are family homes that serve as the gathering place for far flung relatives.
As I approached the gate, preparing to depart Sea Drift, I decided to ask the guard about the address I had been given. One last shot to see if the party was on my dance card. She knew everyone, every house, and whether it was occupied or not.
Oh, you need to go that way!
She pointed to the eastern half of the loop, the road not yet taken. Of course.
I set off. By now the sun was burning through the marine layer. It was getting warm, and the balls of my feet were starting to beg for sneakers and not the water shoes I was wearing. I laughed when I spied the first house number. I was about to walk the entire way back to the northern point; full circle, as they say. About 5 miles total.
A yard full of dahlias – deep purples, oranges, reds – greeted me when I arrived at my destination, via Kansas City. Dahlias so large they could be used on game day as pom poms. Through the glass I saw a young girl with long blonde hair excitedly make her way to the door, as if she knew me and was waiting all morning for me to arrive. Sitting to the right of the door was a man I know from Stinson. He’s delightful, funny, and warm – one of a handful of people that made me realize this was where I needed to live. I hadn’t expected to see him here but was so glad because I knew no one else. Had I taken the direct route and gone left instead of right as the beach ended and the road began, I would have likely been waking this family up, instead of arriving still on the early side.
That would have been embarrassing.
The sliding glass door was opened by the California girl. She welcomed me into a entertaining area with a living room to the left that ended at a sheet of glass with a view of the man-made lagoon and the back decks of the houses on the other side. Near the glass, on the right side of the room was a table laden with food, most with some sort of red, white and blue motif. Trays of pinwheel sandwiches, red and blue tortilla chips, salsas and guacamole (Remember when we didn’t serve that at parties? It replaced onion dip and potato chips.), fresh fruit, cheeses and crackers, cupcakes and other treats filled a table that suggested many more would be coming through the front door.
In the kitchen was a man who clearly knew what he was doing. The California girl introduced him as her father. Beautifully bald, with lively blue eyes, he shook my hand and went right back to making sliders and cracking jokes. This man had fine moves in the kitchen.
She introduced me to his Mom, her grandmother. He offered me a beer, I asked for water and a bathroom to change in.
Did you come from the pull?
I did. We won!
You pulled for Bolinas? You’re cute… (As if cute is outlawed on Bolinas) Well, no wonder you’re smiling. Next year you should pull for us.
A sweet compliment, but I’m starting to feel protective about Bolinas. There are lots of cute (beautiful, intriguing, wildly smart) people here.
When the noon whistle blew at the Stinson firehouse, wine bottles opened and beer cans popped. Several people had arrived, including the couple that had invited me. The 4th of July party was in full swing. I met a woman who taught at the dudes’ school for years before retiring, and spent a great deal of the afternoon talking to the parents of the bald man and their friends, while he made certain everyone was fed and watered.
The lagoon was starting to look like a cul de sac with people drifting by on kayaks to visit neighbors and paddlers practicing their balancing skills. A man swam laps – I felt like joining him. I allowed myself many moments to imagine what it would feel like to live there and be able to walk from my kitchen out onto a deck and dive in to the lagoon for a morning swim without fearing motorized boats…or sharks.
Or to finish dinner and watch the moon rise over the hills. Then go for a swim as the light turns the surface into diamonds. It felt natural to include a man in that picture. But no additional eye candy would be necessary; the lagoon at midnight would have all the romance a person needs.
I brought my bathing suit for the swim across the Bolinas Lagoon, but didn’t even realize there was one tucked away in Sea Drift. After lots of encouragement and a few glasses of wine, I changed out of my dress, into my suit and dove in. My feet sunk into the softest sand, with the water waist high near the edge and then gently sloping deeper. The water was refreshing – really refreshing, not the typical, Oh, it’s refreshing! and then the wind gets knocked out of you upon immersion.
In 90 seconds I fell deeply in love with this canal. I would sacrifice privacy (the houses are side by side) for the opportunity to drift and swim and paddle in her daily. Then I remembered tsunamis.
I think I’ll stay on the Mesa.
The bald man and his girlfriend returned from a kayak trip south. My friends had been out backyard hoping from paddleboards and were now refueling on beer and sliders. And I was throwing a football like a girl with the bald man’s son in the lagoon. After splashing him in the face with short throws that smacked the water, he decided a little instruction was in order.
He tossed me the ball. I grabbed it in my right hand and pulled my arm back, getting ready to launch another wobbly and pathetic throw before he came over and took over.
Don’t grab it in the middle. Put your hand toward the front of the ball with the outside of your hand facing your ear and bring the ball back. Now, as you bring your arm forward turn the nose of the ball to the front and release when it’s right about here.
This is so not gonna work, I thought.
He swam back to his spot. I positioned my hand on one end and turned the other to the back, and as I brought my arm forward I turned the ball and let her fly.
Perfect freaking spiral, 20 feet in the air, and right into his arms.
My first thought was to call up my five brothers and say, You’ve all failed me. You had 47 years to teach me how to throw a football and you chose not to. How can you live with yourself?
Instead, I dove for catches, launched perfect arcing spirals, yelled TOUCHDOWN! and laughed until I choked on salt water. We could have gone for hours, but the parade was about to start. I hauled my fifty foot smile out of the lagoon and wrapped up in a towel. All those who had ventured out on the water had returned and gathered at a table up on the deck for prime viewing.
And then the show began.
This parade was full of floats. Floating inner tubes, floating paddleboards, floating rafts, floating kayaks. And it was also full of personality. There were Vikings, pirates, women in sparkly wigs with sparkly shorts and funky hats. Parade waves were well-rehearsed, laughter was floating over the water like the evening fog. As the colorful ensemble put on their best show, a few came over to the dock to collect a beer or two, shake hands, pose for pictures.
The parade was the frosting on a light and airy cupcake of a day. As we gathered our belongings to depart for the cottage on the hill, in the late afternoon, the bald man cut dahlias for three of us. Mine was purple and as big as my face.
You’re part of the family now, he said.
We hugged goodbye.
My dahlia was clutched in my hand, held close to protect it from the wind coming through the open car windows. The radio was on. We all talked over it and the wind, reminiscing about the day. My friend commented on the bald man and his girlfriend.
They’re not a match, she said. And then –
I told him he should be dating you. He didn’t disagree!
My laughter was my only response, although she was looking for a buying sign. I wasn’t offering any.
Maybe one day. But right now nobody wants to date me. If they did they’d have to get a passport for The Twilight Zone.