Travelblogue II: Perigee

I left the northern coast of California as the sun was coming up, hoping to see the redwood trees for the first time in my life before the light was too high.  I hugged the ocean until Eureka and then turned inland to start the long trek on the Redwood Highway. I don’t know what I expected—I reckoned that I would see the giant timbers off in the far distance—but in fact they were inches from the road: the very winding, relatively narrow, light-jarred road. I was angling for dappled, but what I hooked was shards of light cutting through my field of vision down through the massive, dark trees—an unsettling and dangerous chiaroscuro, since there were other cars on the road, too, and since I was turning out to be quite the leadfoot, once unfettered (it’s hard to be a leadfoot anywhere in Seattle).

I saw a sign for “Elk Meadow” up ahead, which, as it turned out, was not the name of a quaint village, but an actual meadow with dozens and dozens of elk wandering and lying about—very (alarmingly) close to the road. By the time I reached Ukiah, I was both exhilarated and exhausted, my voice hoarse from screaming the one line about the redwood forest from “This Land is Your Land” over several hours. After a break for lunch and a pause to let some color back into my white knuckles, I took the wheel again and headed for the Bay Area. I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and rolled down my window, letting in the smell of eucalyptus as I drove along 19th Avenue through the city.[Pro tip: eucalyptus sometimes smells like cat pee when it’s filtered through a vehicle’s A/C system. Roll down the windows.]

I broke for the night in Menlo Park, since I have friends I wanted to see there. While my hotel room was probably more like average, it seemed luxurious, clean, and palatial by the previous night’s standards. I took my shoes off and walked, brazenly, to and fro across the carpet in my bare feet. My friends arrived and we went to dinner, our conversation the first of several similar ones I would have over the course of the next days:

“Why have we waited so long to see each other?”

Why, indeed?  Because losing one’s father and almost one’s own life leads to a certain urgency to right such wrongs, to race across the country, seeing sights unknown and renewing friendships.

“Let’s not wait this long again.”

No, let’s not. Let’s develop some intention around cultivating and caring for one’s relationships, shall we? This is what we’ll want to remember when we’re old, right?

After dinner, returning to the hotel at dusk, we spied the rising perigee moon, the one that occurs on the night on which the moon is closest to the earth: the supermoon. I wish it had risen over something more mystical than the Stanford Shopping Center, but it rose nonetheless over a reunion of friends, in a car, laughing with the windows down. 5-year old Owen had given me a lollipop. I slept well.


Jenifer Ward is the Editor of Off Paper and Dean of the College at Cornish College of the Arts. Read Installment #1 here: and #3 Here