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Monte Bello - Devavani Chatterjea-Matthes

After a Measured Cup of Warming Brandy - Tim Bellows

Comings and Goings - Christopher Woods


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Spring 2000

Wild Lit

Comings and Goings

by Christopher Woods

On any trail, there is always someone ahead or behind. I thought about this as we hiked in Point Lobos State Reserve, outside Carmel, California. As we followed the North Shore Trail, we would occasionally encounter other hikers. Some came up from behind us, while others came to meet us.
      The day was perfect. The sun was out, undeterred by the infrequent banks of fog drifting over us. The fog vanished quickly into the rocks and foliage.
      Already we had come face to face with two deer. They stood on a large boulder and watched us with as much curiosity as we did them. There was no trace of fear in their dark, moist eyes.
      We soon saw a couple walking toward us. It was a woman and a young man we soon learned was her son. Friendly, they stopped to talk. My wife and I stood bunched together with them on the narrow trail, on the lookout for poison oak on either side. The woman was out of breath. She quickly announced that she had emphysema, but she was surprised that she could walk so well on the park trails. Better than walking in the city, she declared. No exhaust here, I said. She nodded in agreement, and then patted her shirt pocket. I have my trusty inhaler if I need it, she told us.
      We went our separate ways. My wife and I chose to follow the Sea Lion Point Trail. Through the trees, the barks of seals seemed to float on the air. But before we got to the place where we might see the seals, suddenly a woman came up from behind us. I'm truly lost, she said, but there was a smile on her face. I think we understood. If one could choose a place to be lost, this might as well be it. After comparing maps for a few moments, the woman took off in the opposite direction. Watching her disappear into the landscape of flowers and trees and rocks, I wondered how it would be to walk these trails alone. I mean, there is the peace of solitude, and then there is the loneliness. Given her smile, my guess is that she was enjoying the peace. Who knows what she encountered in the months and years leading up to this trail, over highways and relationships. I decided this walk was a good one for her.
      An hour or so later, we found ourselves on Moss Cove Trail. Two years before, we had come to this same spot. There is a kind of serenity, and even sacredness, about this place. We stayed a good while looking out over Moss Cove. I could stay here forever, my wife said. I agreed. Maybe, when the time came, we could scatter our ashes here. One would do this for the other. Or, perhaps a young relative could bring us both here in due course. Who could know when? But it would be a way of staying.
      Walking away from Moss Cove was like leaving a shrine or a very special ceremony. We walked with a new kind of exhilaration. We did not want to leave, but for now it was time to go. Later, maybe later.
      As we walked back on Granite Point Trail, I could see a couple coming our way. They wore backpacks with easels strapped across them. I was not surprised when we all paused in our tracks. Is there anything to paint over there, the man asked? He was pointing over our shoulders in the direction of Moss Cove. His wife looked at us expectantly.
      You'll find a lot to paint, my wife said. Well, the man said, I do landscapes, but my wife is looking for a house or building to paint. Then she won't be disappointed, I told him. I explained that, while the husband painted the land and water, his wife could paint the Carmelite Monastery, easily seen from Moss Cove.
      Seeming pleased, they walked on. And we walked away. But we hoped we would be back, for a short visit, or for always. On any trail, there is always someone ahead or behind. Perhaps some trails just go on and on. It all depends on memory and time.

Christopher Woods is a native Texan who lives in Houston. He writes fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays. This essay originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on Feb. 13, 2000. Reprinted by permission.

Monte Bello - Devavani Chatterjea-Matthes
After a Measured Cup of Warming Brandy - Tim Bellows

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